Friday, March 30, 2018

Spring Reading 2018 The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee


My friends often tease me that I should try out for a spot on Jeopardy because my brain is full of odd trivia and facts. I have never auditioned because I know that my trivia resides in a few favorite categories and that the show covers a wide range of possible subjects. India Wimple does not have that problem. She and her family love the Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee and watch it together. India correctly spells each word the contestants are given and her family gets the idea that she should audition for the show. 

There are lot of obstacles between India and winning the competition. Her family lives in the tiny town of Yungadilla and her father is generally paid in IOUs and barter, so they have to find a way to pay for the travel to the various tryout rounds. The travel itself is fraught with problems - engine breakdowns, tires stuck in mud, navigating strange towns, and medical emergencies all threaten to keep the Wimples from getting India where she need to be. Even if she arrives at each round, there are still all the other competitors to outspell.

India and her family are very believable characters. India is a brilliant speller and devoted to her family, but shy. Her younger brother Boo is supportive and funny, but suffers terrible asthma attacks. Her parents and grandmother all believe in her and do their best to bolster her courage and help her prepare for the competition. Most of the other children in the contest are more 2-dimensional, but provide plenty of entertainment with their antics. And the a few of them play a larger part, including Rajish and Summer Millicent Ernestine Beauregard-Champion (yes, she's as stuck-up as her name makes her sound).

Each chapter begins with a word card such as a competitor might use. The words range from 
calamitous to trepidation, and always have something to do with the events of the chapter and India's feelings about them. Once readers recognize this pattern, the words and their foreshadowing lend extra suspense to the story. If a chapter begins with the word "skulduggery," it is hard not to tense up and wonder what sort of underhanded activity is coming soon.

This is a wonderful middle grade book, perfect for read-alouds or for logophiles and spellers to enjoy on their own. There are all the themes of rising to a challenge, overcoming hardships, family closeness, and making new friends. Highly recommended for all school libraries, classrooms, and children's collections in libraries everywhere.

I read an e-galley provided by the publisher through edelweiss.

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