Review Blog

Aug 24 2016

The stupendously spectacular spelling bee by Deborah Abela

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Random House, 2016. ISBN 9781925324822
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Spelling. Grammar. Words. Competition. With each chapter heading being a new complex word along with its meaning and use in a sentence, the emphasis on words is given an extra boost in this wonderfully charming story about a spelling competition. India Wimple from a small country town has an extraordinary gift - she can spell. She and her family watch the competition on TV together and no word is beyond India's ability. They encourage her to enter the competition but India is against this, recalling the incident which gave her stage fright. But dad turns to the community and they work out a way to overcome her fears and gran gives them money to get the family to the first of the series, a six hour drive away. When she wins, Sydney seems too far but the community bands together to help the family out.
Arriving in Sydney India meets several of her competitors: one, Summer is a vain, trumped up young girl who readily puts everyone down, and the other, Rajishh, is as supportive as Summer is cruel. In the mix is India's brother, Boo, an asthmatic whose flare ups cause mayhem for the family. At each turn, India's path to the finals is blocked, but help from sometimes unexpected quarters always come along, reflecting the common goodness in people's hearts.
This is a sympathetic and likable tale of a young girl overcoming her fears to achieving her goal, and meeting some supportive people along the way. Even Summer turns out to have a nice side, and the prize India gets for winning is a way to achieve something the family has dreamed of.
The comparison between the three sets of parents is thought provoking, and the emphasis on words and spelling bees may encourage children to emulate India.
Fran Knight

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