We’re happy to share this post from our sister site, Kids Corner @ Kindle Nation Daily, where you can find all things Kindle for kids and teens, every day!
Last week we announced that Alice Randall & Caroline Randall Williams’ The Diary of B. B. Bright, Possible Princess is our Kids Corner Book of the Week and the sponsor of our student reviews and of thousands of great bargains in the Kids Book category: over 250 free titles, over 500 quality 99-centers, and hundreds more that you can read for free through the Kindle Lending Library if you have Amazon Prime!
Now we’re back to offer a free Kids Corner excerpt, and if you aren’t among those who have downloaded this one already, you’re in for a treat!
by Alice Randall, Caroline Randall Williams
A lively tale of one young woman’s adventure to pass her Official Princess Test, discover a means of escape from her island, and reveal her true destiny.
Thirteen-year-old orphan Black Bee Bright (B. B. for short) is funny, quirky, precocious, and adventurous. But B. B. has a secret. She’s captive on an island in “the middle of very tropical nowhere” because she’s forced to hide her true identity as a royally born princess from her parents’ enemies in Raven World. B. B. must find a way to escape to “the Other World” where there are best friends and cool clothes, but she can’t escape the island until she passes her Official Princess Test and undertakes a dangerous journey alone to the East side of the island, where eight princesses must help her discover what it truly means to be a princess.
“Sweet, sassy and mystical, this novel deftly melds an old-fashioned story of princess preparation with the modern twist of body image and self-esteem. Young readers will respond to the voice as well as the predicament, while grown-ups will appreciate the values.” —Kirkus Reviews
And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
The Diary of B. B. Bright, Possible Princess
Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams
I want off this island. If I can’t step off by myself, I hope maybe I can sneak you, diary, into the bottom of one of the crates of honey we bottle and ship out every month to The Other World.
If some girl finds this diary, maybe she’ll write to me and I’ll have a friend. I WANT A FRIEND! A girl. My age! Or maybe some boy will find you, read you, fall in love with ME, then rush over to the island to meet me NO MATTER WHAT.
And I want to take off the necklace with the huge darkstar they make me wear every hour of every day!
None of that’s going to happen. I’m going to be stuck on this island forever! Unless I can smuggle you out—and someone comes. FOR ME!
If I smuggle you out, I will have to copy you first and unspill the beans. If I tell everything, I’ll be breaking one of The Three Big Rules.
Compared to breaking one of The Three Big Rules, smuggling is No Big Deal.
I’ve got to try something. I can’t take one more day alone on this island with three old ladies, two dogs, one tutor, a whole bunch of bees, and a posse of fireflies, no matter how much I love them. And I want somebody who doesn’t live on this island to know I really truly am Black Bee Bright, Daughter of the Raven King and Raven Queen, even if that does break Big Rule Three.
Ouch. I just got stung. When my bees sting me they think we’re kissing. Lucky I’m not allergic. Ever since a queen bee stung me my first day on the island when I was four, bees have liked me. Bees and fireflies. We get each other. The Godmother Elizabethanne calls it a “special affinity.” Seven fireflies are blinking around me right now. I can’t count the guard bees in the dark. But I can hear them buzz. They watch over me while I’m sleeping.
Since I’m not sleeping I wish they would chill.
You may be wondering how it came to be that I am living on an island in the middle of very tropical nowhere. Before I EXPLAIN I’ve got to COMPLAIN!
All this nature was fine when I was four. Even when I was eight. In a week, I’ll be THIRTEEN. I want air conditioning. I want window screens. I want a Forever Best Friend, and a Boyfriend!
I don’t want to just read about those things in magazines that come six months late and in old books tucked here and there and everywhere on shelves all over our side of the island! And I don’t want to spend my days helping tend beehives, playing chess, doing yoga, and studying, studying, studying! With no age-mates!
The Godmommies are beginning to get it. I tell the Godmommies I want to go to school and study with other girls. That I want to go to church and sing in a children’s choir with other children and go on a Sunday School outing to an amusement park. I want to see a city, eat in a restaurant, go to a museum. When I say stuff like that, I can feel myself getting closer and closer to OFF THE ISLAND. Or at least I think I can.
The Godmommies start talking about Detroit. And San Francisco. And Harlem. They talk about big church hats on Sunday and schools where the teacher would hit your hand with a ruler if you talked out of turn and restaurants that sold pizza and restaurants with rolling carts full of little taste treasures called dim sum, and before I know it, they are talking about what it would take to hide me and keep me safe in The Other World.
Too bad I decided to share ALL my reasons with them at dinner earlier tonight. Fortunately, I didn’t start with the biggies, Forever Best Friend and Boyfriend.
I started with a small one. Between sips of kale broth, I said, “I want clothes that aren’t out of style in The Other World by the time the boat gets here.” The Godmommies said they do not “find that argument persuasive.” They threatened to cut off my subscriptions to all my glossy Other World magazines. They told me to eat my sweet potatoes.
Or, to be more precise (Mamselle says precision is important to potential princesses), Godmother Elizabethanne, who used to be a lawyer, told me my argument was not very persuasive. Godmother Grace, who used to be a preacher, threatened to cut off my magazines, and G.Mama Dot, who once was a bus driver and doesn’t “take no stuff from nobody,” told me to eat my sweet potatoes.
As far as the Godmommies are concerned, the only things I should ever read from The Other World (a boat comes once a month to bring our mail and pick up our honey) are written by Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Will Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, William Blake, or Gwendolyn Brooks. Or, it’s in the Bible.
And the Godmommies are not impressed by what they refer to as my “sartorial challenges.”
They say I look pretty in a pareo. What do you think?
I just crawled out of the closet. The Godmommies are downstairs arguing. About me. Again! It’s their favorite after-dinner occupation. They sit in the dark and they argue. I huddle under my covers knitting and listening, pretending to be asleep. Or I crawl into a closet if I don’t want to listen.
They are arguing about whether I am more likely to find the eight princesses on this side of the island—the West Side—or on the other side, the East Side. Considering the ten-mile-wide desert that we would have to sleep right in the middle of to get to the East Side, AND considering there’s nothing on the East Side of the island but a giant thorny thicket, a group of bears, and too many poisonous snakes to count (because of the East Island bear cave and snake breeding pit), I’m still hoping I can find the princesses on this side of the island. I would like to agree with G.Mama Dot, who loudly announced, “Get with it! No family forays into the thicket!” But I can’t agree. I’ve been wandering around Bee Isle for eight years—since I was three or four. If there were eight princesses on this side of the island I would have found them by now! But downstairs G.Mama Dot is laying it down hot and loud how I will find the princesses on this side of the island.
Even though I can’t see it, I can just imagine them downstairs wagging a short fat finger (G.Mama Dot), or a long thin finger (Godmother Elizabethanne), or a finger with lots of rings on it (Godmommy Grace), right in each others’ faces. When they finger wag, they call it signifying. I call it old lady-ing.
When the Godmommies argue about how they’re raising me it makes me laugh. When they talk about the things they miss because they’re stuck on this island taking care of me, it makes me want to cry.
Tonight they did both, but they started with what they missed. That’s why I crawled into the closet. I didn’t want to hear.
They never argue or talk about things they miss in the room with me. But sometimes when they think I’m for real asleep and they think I for real can’t hear, they start talking about things they miss and they get excited. And when they get excited my Godmommies get loud. I don’t think they know how loud they get. Sometimes they wake me up even when I have been asleep. They are that loud.
I can hear them through three walls and two doors. They talk about stuff like Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald and stuff like book clubs and big church on Sunday and cable TV; and good meals they don’t have to cook and libraries and the Internet. And steak and barbecue and fried chicken.
On the island we have chickens for eggs but we don’t eat the chickens. And there aren’t any cows or pigs. We eat fish. And lots of beans. Black-eyed peas. Red beans. Green lentils. And lots of eggs. Sometimes the eggs are turned into frittatas that are flat and dense, sometimes into soufflés that are tall and puffy, sometimes they are handkerchief-thin crepes—but it’s all eggs. We eat so many eggs I call us eggatarians. When I’m old I will be talking about frittatas and soufflés and crepes like late at night they talk about ribs and chicken with waffles.
When they talk about stuff they miss for too long, Godmother Elizabethanne says, “There may be a loophole around the rules but I haven’t found it yet.” And just after that Godmommy Grace says, “Don’t stop singing the ‘Exile Blues’ or we’ll be stuck in them.” G.Mama Dot always says, “Blues shoes, don’t loose.”
Fortunately they got off point and got quieter. That’s when I got out of the closet. Then they got loud and interesting. They wound up arguing about raising me.
When they argue about raising me, this island is not boring. Sometimes I say things just to get them mad. I try to keep the island as interesting as I can.
Right now, Godmommy Grace is saying I don’t understand anything about signifying and they should stop doing it because it scares me. G.Mama Dot says, “Baby girl owns Raven World, nothing can pierce her fierce.” Godmother Elizabethanne says signifying and head bobbing is stereotypical behavior that they shouldn’t be validating. Then Godmommy Grace contradicts her and says signifying is part of the armor that will help enemies fail to see— despite all other signs and appearances—that she (meaning me) is a princess.
They’re talking so loud it sounds like a party. I don’t know how they can think I can sleep through all their chatter and laughter and worrying.
I’m going to try.
I can’t sleep so I’m up in bed under the covers writing in you. I’m under the covers because Mamselle, my tutor, goes out prowling at night. If she ever sees a light in my bedroom, she tells on me to the Godmommies.
My bedroom is on the third floor of the Godmommies’ Cottages. The Godmommies live in three houses right next to each other: one is short and wide, one is tall and thin, and one is perfectly square. Pretty much just like the Godmommies. The tall cottage one has five stories.
I’ll draw it for you.
They knocked down the walls separating their third floors to make me one huge bedroom playroom. My room’s gigantic. Their bedrooms are just below mine on their separate second floors. On the first floor there’s a kitchen we all use in G.Mama Dot’s house. The other two have offices on their first floors.
It used to be that when they talked in the kitchen, it was hard for me to hear them. Not anymore.
G.Mama Dot just hollered something about teaching me true good manners, and about the importance of Proper Home Training.
I’m starting to wonder if maybe they’re losing their hearing along with their minds. They’re getting old. I don’t know their exact ages but I think the Godmommies are in their late sixties or maybe seventies and even possibly eighties, and that’s starting to get up there. But maybe not for Godmommies. I think they need to get up off this island as much as I do.
When I ask them how old they are, they never tell me. They say that’s one of the special things about being a woman of color—you look young longer. They say, “Black don’t crack.”
They say I have skin the color of honey and eyes the color of chocolate, and lips the color of plums. They say I am the prettiest princess of all.
I don’t feel very pretty. I have a zit, I have funny hair, AND I have odd clothes, if you can even call a pareo “clothes” in the plural. My skin may be the color of chocolate; my lips, plums; and my eyes, honey; but it comes together funny. The evidence? I don’t have a best friend or a boyfriend.
I say all of this in my head; I don’t say it out loud. Out loud, I laugh and say I look pretty good in a pareo. If they don’t know their godchild isn’t pretty, I don’t want to be the one to tell them.
I love the Godmommies. Mainly I just want to be exactly like them. Who wouldn’t? G.Mama Dot, the one who says everything in rhymes, was a gonna-be hip-hop artist and an everyday bus driver when she lived in The Other World. Now she paints. She lives in the short, wide house. Godmother Elizabethanne plays chess with me and helps me figure out every kind of puzzle and plan. She was a lawyer. She lives in the tall, skinny house. Godmommy Grace was a preacher. She’s really good at listening, and she does yoga. She teaches me yoga. She lives in the square house. And Godmother Elizabethanne plays chess . . . I said that already, but that’s kinda sorta just like living on the island: you get back to the things you just did quick. Too quick.
P.S. The Godmommies are beautiful. I think it’s easier to be beautiful when you’re old.
This morning the Godmommies got back to the subject of my clothes, too quick. When the Godmommies start telling, again, some story about some old great-aunt down in some small town in Alabama, maybe Tuskegee, who had to put her outfits together from a “poor barrel” (a giant barrel of used clothes), shipped South from a church in the North, I want them to stop. Somehow the fact that that girl managed to turn herself into the best-dressed girl in a town—even though some of the rich girls shopped in fancy Birmingham department stores—makes me feel silly and selfish, and just plain less-than.
But silly and selfish and less-than though it be, I want to say I’m tired of hearing stories about distant relatives. If they are relatives! Is a God-cousin a relative? I want to say I don’t believe them. I want to say they make up these stories to PERSECUTE ME. To drive me just BANANAS. Because I don’t have friends or clothes—even from a poor barrel. But I don’t say any of that, I just let myself know I want to say it.
I also don’t say I never see pictures of other girls running around wrapped in a piece of silk or cotton in the pages of my magazines—except for maybe girls just getting out of a bath or a shower wrapped up in a towel.
Godmother Elizabethanne tried to reason with me. She always tries to reason with me. She said I might not have the clothes I want, but I do have the most beautiful jewelry of any girl she has ever known. Godmother Elizabethanne had a point.
My necklace is pretty amazing. It’s a gold chain with one giant darkstar in the middle and four other jewels on either side. The aunts say the little stones are a ruby, a pearl, an amber bead, a garnet, a jasper bead, a topaz, a sapphire, and a padpararadscha. One stone is see-through red, one is solid white, one is clear golden, one is clear dark red, one is a mottled purple, one is a grayish shade of clear golden, one is clear blue, and one is a clear pinky shade of orange. The necklace is pretty pretty. Except I’ve worn it every day of my life. Because of that it’s boring. And it doesn’t look anything like anything any girls in my magazines wear. So I get back to my point. Way out loud. And from a different angle.
I say, “I want normal jewelry!”
They say, “Hush!”
This makes me mad. The Godmommies are always saying the truth will set me free. I tell the truth as often as I can and I’m still in prison on the prettiest island in the world—at least it’s prettier than any of the other islands I’ve seen in the World Book Encyclopedia or in my magazines.
P.S. From what I’ve seen in the encyclopedia, Bee Isle looks like a cross between Martinique, Madagascar, and Maui, and a little like Martha’s Vineyard. They should call it MMMM Isle!
Maybe the Godmommies meant to say big truths will set you free and little truths will get you shushed. This morning during before-breakfast yoga, while holding my buzzing-bee pose beside Godmommy Grace, I closed my eyes and tried to think of the truest truth I knew.
Something that would make the Godmommies risk breaking one of the Three Big Rules.
The first big rule is: No man can step foot on the island. The second big rule is: I can’t step foot off the island until I’ve met eight princesses. So far I haven’t met one. WE ARE GOING TO BE STUCK ON THIS ISLAND FOREVER. The third big rule is: I can’t tell anyone I’m the Raven King’s daughter. I hate The Three Big Rules.
If a man steps foot on the island, he will disappear. No one knows exactly how long it will take each time, but the Godmommies guess it would be somewhere between immediately and less than a day. The time I saw it: ten seconds.
And if I step foot off the island before meeting the eight princesses, I will disappear. Probably immediately.
I’ve been waiting to meet the princesses for so long and not one has shown her face. I don’t even really want to meet them anymore. I just want to get off the island.
The punishment for breaking Rule Three is trickier; no one knows what it is. It could be something small like all the blueberries on the island disappear. Or it could be really big, like I get killed by someone who thinks I might be the rightful heir to the Raven Throne.
Rule Three is a biggie. Even G.Mama Dot who doesn’t get scared is afraid of Rule Three. She got so afraid she threatened me. She said, “Child, I don’t know what ELSE will happen if you EVER tell ANYONE you are the Raven King’s daughter—but one thing for sure will happen, I will snatch your bald head!”
I don’t think G.Mama Dot would harm a hair on my head. But she threatens to. When she threatens to “snatch my bald head” I know I am absolutely not supposed to do whatever she’s talking about under any circumstances whatsoever. I GET IT. RULE THREE is BIG!
But does it have to be? What if everyone in Raven World (one of the fairytale kingdoms) and in The Other World (the regular place where the Godmommies came from) knew I had zero intention of ever sitting on the Raven Throne? I want to write a letter to all the magical worlds in this Universe and to the regular world: To whom it may concern, on this island, in Raven World, or in The Other World: I do not want to sit in, or on, or even near my Daddy and my Mama’s throne. Period. Exclamation mark.
I’ve seen what happens when someone sits on the Raven Throne who isn’t supposed to. I saw two such somebodies sit on the Raven Thrones. I saw them get frozen into giant blocks of ice.
I haven’t always lived on Bee Isle. My mother brought me here and hid me here when I was little. There was a war in Raven World. That’s where I was born, where I lived in a stone castle 36 meters tall and 21 meters wide. Where my father was a king. Where my mother was a queen. Where I was a—I can’t tell you. We think my parents got killed in that war.
Godmommy Grace says if my parents got killed they are in heaven and they are with me all the time, even if I can’t see them. I don’t think my parents got killed. It doesn’t feel like they’re with me all the time.
Godmother Elizabethanne thinks my parents may have moved to The Other World and have not found a safe way to come back and get me. Safe for me, she means. G.Mama Dot says, “No way to know, baby, no way to know.” I love the way G.Mama talks. It sounds like a low rumbling song. That’s something I know. And there’s something else I do know.
I had a friend in Ravencastle. A boy. His name was Enchantment. When I first came to Bee Isle, I would tell the Godmommies stories about me and that boy. We would play hide-and-seek, and tic-tac-toe, and have thumb battles for hours. The first year I was here, when I was so sad about having nobody to play with, I wrote a book, Zip and Zap. I said the words out loud and Godmother Elizabethanne wrote them down and G.Mama Dot held the crayons while I drew the pictures. It was full of pictures of things that boy and I did at Ravencastle, and now I don’t even remember his whole name. But I remember hiding behind some curtains in the throne room when that boy and I were playing freeze tag and seeing my cousin and his wife get frozen into giant ice blocks FOREVER when they did what they weren’t supposed to do and tried to sit on the Raven Thrones.
And I know what happened to my parents—they sat on the Raven Thrones and they disappeared. Not immediately. Not into a block of ice. But from my life!
If ever I get off this island, I am not putting one foot on even the bottom rung of either of the velvet carpeted ebony stairs leading to the two Raven Thrones.
I’m going to stay on permanent vaycay!
Godmother Elizabethanne says, “Perpetual vacation is for the dissolute and willing to be bored.” She says it so often I have memorized the sentence forwards and backwards, “Bored be to willing and dissolute the for is vacation perpetual.” Godmother Elizabethanne says permanent vaycay is for the kind of princesses who inherit but don’t inhabit their office. Whatever. That. Means. Ugh. But when G.Mama Dot says that whether or not I’m going to try for the throne, there are people who would want to kill anybody who has any chance of being heir to my father’s kingdom, I listen. I can’t break Big Rule Three. Rule Three is important. They say the nearer I get to the age I can sit on the throne, the more important it gets to not break Rule Three.
Mamselle says the closer I get to taking the OPT the more important Rule Three gets.
The OPT is one of the reasons the Godmommies are fighting with Mamselle these days. Mainly I’m homeschooled by the Godmommies. But the Godmommies invited Mamselle to the island to tutor me in things royal in preparation for the OPT.
The OPT (Official Princess Test) allows any girl to be acknowledged as princess without having to be born royal, to be adopted by a royal, or to marry a royal. If I’m not allowed to tell anyone I’m the Raven King’s daughter, and I want to be a princess, I have to take the OPT. If I pass the OPT, I will be called Princess Bee Bee. Or, B. B. Bright, Princess of Light. Something that doesn’t reveal what the Godmommies sniff and call “my origins.” Such as Black Bee Bright, Princess of Ravencastle. If I want to be acknowledged as a princess but I don’t want to break Rule Three, I’ve got to pass the OPT.
But, and this is a huge but, if I take the OPT and don’t pass it, I’m no longer any princess at all!
A girl who fails the OPT cannot be a princess. Even if she marries a prince. Even if she marries a king. Even if she was born a princess. Even if she is adopted by a princely family. A girl who fails the OPT cannot be a princess. The OPT is scary.
That’s why they’re paying almost all the money they are making from their honey company to Mamselle to tutor me. I have to pass. Only a girl who has passed the OPT can travel between the three worlds and into and out of fairytale time.
Unfortunately for me, even if I do pass the OPT, I won’t be able to travel anywhere because I haven’t met the Eight Princesses. The Godmommies say, “First things first. Pass the OPT.”
The Godmommies are not certain Mamselle’s preparing me correctly. They want their “money’s worth.” They do not want me to lose options.
And G.Mama Dot and Godmother Elizabethanne are mad with Mamselle for siding with Godmommy Grace in the argument about whether I will have to go to the other side of the island to find the Princesses. I’m a little mad at Godmommy Grace and Mamselle for thinking I need to go over to the East Side of the island. Desert. Bears. Snakes. Ugh!!! But G.Mama Dot’s got my back. She shoots down all notions of me going to East Island anytime soon.
G.Mama Dot snapped her fingers loud, and in a deep voice she said, “Mamselle’s gyrating is eye-rotating irritating!” Godmommy Grace laughed her high-pitched laugh that sounded a little like a bird cry and a lot like she was about to say something important, then she kept her ideas to herself. Godmother Elizabethanne said, “Mamselle is B. B.’s staunch advocate!”
Mamselle arrived on my eighth birthday. She lives in a house that looks like a miniature French chateau on the beach. Before Mamselle arrived that little building was the boathouse.
Mamselle is very pretty, very quiet, and very mysterious. She’s not Other World like the Godmommies; she’s Fairytale— and just a little strange. She tells me she is almost four hundred years old, but the Godmommies say she looks like she’s thirty. That’s strange. And she keeps a miniature horse as a pet. His name is Bayard. When Bayard’s in the house he wears a kind of diaper. Mamselle wears the kind of clothes I see in my Other World magazines except all of her clothes are black. Most of them are names I can’t quite say, but I can tell you this, Diary: Mamselle is fancy. Very, very fancy . . .
The Godmommies, particularly G.Mama Dot and Godmother Elizabethanne, who are funky-fun, down-to-earth, and loudly glamorous, worry that, even though they invited her, Mamselle is a spy coming to sabotage my future performance on the Princess Test. I worry that the Godmommies are getting paranoid.
It’s not always fun being Black Bee Bright, Princess of Light, daughter of the Raven King and Queen and probable heir to the Raven Throne.
There, I did it. Broke Big Rule Three. Inadvertently. (My new word for the day.)
Breaking the rule wasn’t as much fun as I thought it would be. Maybe writing in you, Diary, doesn’t count. I would prefer to break Big Rule Two.
And maybe if I don’t step foot off the island but am carried off to a boat, I might not disappear. Or maybe I could ride Mamselle’s tiny horse up the gangplank of a boat. I want to see The Other World. And maybe find my parents if they are still alive. But more than that I want to see Ravencastle and Raven World. The place they loved above all other places, the place that is my home. The place they probably died trying to save.
I will find a way home or disappear trying. I am my mother’s daughter. I will risk return. I will find a way or make a way home.
Black Bee Bright, Possible Princess of Light
P.S. Don’t tell anyone I’m the Raven King’s daughter. Just send a boy, preferably not a prince, who wants to meet a wild girl in a pareo.
I hope maybe the Duke (Mamselle says a Duke is ruling Ravencastle and has sent spies to find me) sends a young spy who falls in love with me, then double crosses the Duke. Or maybe the Duke will send an Ambassador and not a spy and the Ambassador will tell me that the Duke wants to find me and return me to my rightful place, not find me and kill me. The Godmommies don’t agree. G.Mama Dot says: “You green!” Godmother Elizabethanne says: “You are naïve.” Godmommy Grace says: “You are in the throes of inheritance idealism.” Yeah. Okay. I’m probably wrong about the Ambassador.
I say at least I’m not paranoid. I say maybe there’s been a revolution and democracy has been established in Ravencastle and I can return as a regular citizen and it IS safe for us to return to Raven Kingdom. The Godmommies say, “And maybe not.”
I like the idea of democracy. I think it’s pretty inevitable and might have even come to Raven World.
Godmother Elizabethanne praises my analysis but says we need more information before we can sally forth.
The Godmommies talk strange. One talks in hip-hop; one talks very, very logically; and one talks kind of preachy and old fashioned. I talk like my magazines mixed up with my daily vocabulary words. And some like the Godmommies.
I want to meet some people my own age. I want a best friend who does not have wings or walk around on four legs. And when I meet them I want to sound normal. Fat chance.
My best friends on this island are Rotty, a rottweiler who came with the Godmommies, and Zuzu, a shih tzu, who came to the island with my mother when she lived on the East Side of the island before she met my father, and my fireflies and my bees. I want a friend who’s a little more like me.
They get that. When I worry the Godmommies by “talking incessantly” (that’s what Godmother Elizabethanne calls it when I go on and on) to a pretend friend who I pretend looks exactly like me and is just my age and starts acting all jealous about Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer or Harriet and Sport or Harriet and Beth Ellen Hansen, I can, to use a phrase all the Godmommies are always using, “taste the end of exile.” (I know I’m too old to talk to imaginary folk, but this girl needs to talk to someone her age—sometimes— and there’s nobody my age who’s real on this island.)
I can almost see us moving up the gangway (me carried, of course, or on the tiny horse) onto a boat ready to set sail across the Orange Sea for The Other World or Raven World. Every time I suggest this as a possibility, they say it’s too risky to try.
I once got them so close to being ready to risk it. We were sitting with the candles burning particularly bright. Then the candles burned out and they got cautious again. So we were sitting in the dark like we usually did—they didn’t like to waste candles (they say the island bees work too hard to waste wax or honey). They said I should leave the island on my own two feet. After I meet the Eight Princesses. When I’m ready and the world is ready.
I started begging to leave the island. Now! When I begged, the Godmommies got tears in their eyes. I won’t beg again.
I think I misunderstood that Temptations song the Godmommies sing while washing up our breakfast dishes. I should have paid more attention to the part that goes, “I’ve heard a crying man is half a man, with no sense of pride” instead of to the title, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” Next time.
Black Bee Bright
First I beat G.Mama Dot, then I beat Godmommy Grace at chess today! Little Whoopdedoo! Then I beat Godmother Elizabethanne. Big Whoopdeedoo. Godmother Elizabethanne always beats me. Until today! When I beat all three of them, the Godmommies started singing and dancing around the kitchen a song about me being the sunshine of their life. The Godmommies are a little crazy.
I think they’ve been on the island too long with no break.
It was supposed to be their retirement half-year vacation place. The year I was born my mother started to hear stories about triplets who lived in The Other World. A bus driver, a lawyer, and a preacher who lived in Detroit, Michigan. They had done so much good work in their community that they had gotten on the wrong side of more than one gang and even the police. Mama told them, and they told me, that she believed even great warriors needed places of safe retreat. She invited the triplets to live part of each year in the three little cottages she had built for them by the Purple Lake in her secret place, Bee Isle. She used her magic to get them here.
Then war came to Raven World and Mama brought me back to the one place she believed I would be safe. I don’t know how it was she didn’t figure in the boring part. She had lived on the island herself. I guess she forgot.
If there had been Three Big Rules back then I wouldn’t have been born. But that’s not exactly right. Daddy came to the island as a bird, or so the Godmommies told me. The Godmommies also say Mama knew the Eight Princesses. And she never told anyone she was the Raven Queen’s daughter . . . because she wasn’t. Mama obeyed the rules. And she didn’t know who her daddy was and her mama was mean. Mama didn’t have it easy.
That was then. This is too hard. Now. On me and the Godmommies. The blues of exile. They’ve got that. I’ve got it too. And I’ve got the I-want-a-boyfriend-blues. They say I’m too young to have that. The Godmommies don’t know everything.
Yesterday, after holding the flickering firefly pose for half an hour, I spoke my deepest truth knowing it would set us all free. That we’d be on the next boat for The Other World. I said, “I WANT A BOYFRIEND.”
Even though I didn’t add, a boyfriend like in the magazines, from The Other World, I think they figured it out.
The Godmommies say me wanting a boyfriend at twelve years young makes them glad we live on an island. They say it’s fine and even good for me to want one—and it’s their job to make sure I don’t have one until I’m old enough to “make the right decisions.”
When they say “make the right decisions,” I can hear, and I mean actually, literally, hear, trumpets blaring. Just after they get the words out: dunt-ta-ta-dun, putting an
exclamation point on the sentence, dunt-ta-ta-dun!
That’s just one of the strange things that happens each day just to remind me this is a magic place.
The Godmommies say tomorrow we’re going to bake honeycake as well as make honey. That we will have our own pre-birthday Honey Festival. Right!
We are not on vacation; we are in exile, on a fourteen-mile-wide island where it is always warm and most of the trees are palm trees. Sometimes the water around our
island turns bright orange or red. I think that’s because the island is magical. Godmother Elizabethanne says it’s
because there are that many fluorescent fish swimming in it. My mother named me after this place.
In my universe there are three worlds: The Other World, Raven World, and Bright World. The worlds touch in strange ways and places. People from The Other World can travel to Bright World. And people from Bright World can travel to Raven World. But people from The Other World can’t travel to Raven World. And people from Raven World can’t travel to The Other World. Unless you pass the OPT, the Godmommies say, who learned this from Mamselle.
The Godmommies aren’t really my godmothers; they are my guardians. And I don’t mean like lawyers—I mean like ninja warriors, except imagine black ladies. They are here to protect me. So is Rotty. He’s a downtown Detroit rottweiler. Badder than that Leroy Brown G.Mama Dot is always humming about.
I say it would be safe to be with them in The Other World. They say I don’t know what I’m talking about.
I’m not mentioning boyfriends again. I am going to fill up the pages of this book and smuggle it out and hope maybe someone reading this wants to visit this magic place.
I hope some cute boy comes to find me on this island—even if he knows that he’ll disappear shortly after stepping foot on Bee Isle and I’m going to disappear when we step off.
Black Bee Bright
The Godmommies say an invisible prince would be way worse than no prince at all. They won’t even talk about me being an invisible princess.
I stop talking about boyfriends and start talking about being bored with just being a honey-making assistant.
The Godmommies make honey and ship it to The Other World with a label on it that reads Island Honey. And there’s a picture of a palm tree. People think it comes from Hawaii. It comes from our island, Bee Isle. The Godmommies have a lot of fun with their business. And they make a little money that they send to friends in need in The Other World.
I want to start a business of my own—and I don’t mean a little old lavender lemonade stand like I had when I was six and seven and eight. My last stand was when I was eight. Mamselle had just arrived. I sold her a glass. Then I sold one to G.Mama Dot and Mamselle’s eyebrows raised so high I thought they had levitated into her hairline. But she didn’t say a word. She didn’t have to say a word, I knew. I knew the Godmommies do too much for me for me to charge them for anything. So I gave G.Mama Dot her glass for free, and Mamselle’s eyebrows dropped down to where they belonged. She said to G.Mama, “B. B. is quite coachable.” Even without coaching, I know I need some customers I don’t know AND a good idea for a business. I tell the Godmommies, “I need a good idea for a business.” All they say is, “All in good time, precious, all in good time.”
I snap back, trying not to sound or look too sassy, “The best time is now.”
“The best time is now,” is a phrase the Godmommies taught me. I learned early on that fighting fire with fire in Bright World usually means fighting the Godmommies’ words with the Godmommies’ words.
I followed that little verbal jab with a sidekick, mentioning that having my own company might just make me seem less like a princess. If it did, it would, in fact, support Big Rule Three.
I got the Godmommies so dizzy with my contradictory arguments and their contradictory statements and so happy with knowing I was thinking about something other than boys and clothes, they gave in.
Tomorrow I’ve got to think of a business to start.
Except tomorrow is MY BIRTHDAY. I will start my business the day after tomorrow.
Black Bee Bright
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