The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee by Deborah Abela (Random House Australia) PB RRP $14.99
Reviewed by Dianne Bates
With the recent advent of children’s spelling competitions on national television, this book by Australian Deborah Abela is likely to have added appeal to readers aged 8 to 11 years.
India Wimple is a national spelling champ in the making. She and her family religiously watch the Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Been on TV every Friday night. India invariably knows the correct spelling of words presented to competitors. She would go public with her talent but nerves get the better of her – ‘she was terribly, horribly shy and whenever she found herself the centre of attention, her cleverness seemed to disappear.’ Despite this, and encouraged by her loving family, India faces her fears.
This is a fast-paced and engaging book. Abela wonderfully captures the caring spirit of family and community. She presents an accurate view of a spelling bee with its wide variety of competitors, including a spoilt rich girl who is determined to win at all costs. A special feature of the book is the way in which each chapter is introduced. A word is highlighted, as well as its part of speech, its definition, and its use in a sentence. Each time, the chapter opening clearly hints at what is to come. For instance, there is ‘Skulduggery (noun): Trickery, underhandedness, funny business. It seemed there was a lot of skulduggery about.’ Other chapters are prefaced with words such as ‘Tremulous’, ‘Valorous’, ‘Trepidation’, ‘Calamitous’.
This is a spirited, exciting and heart-warming story that is sure to be enjoyed by young readers. And, too, it will be of special interest to anyone who is keen to improve their vocabulary and spelling abilities.