The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee

Although she's a brilliant speller, India Wimple is filled with "trepidation (fear)" at the thought of an "endeavor (attempt)" to win the Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee in the "marvelous" Sydney Opera House. But with the support of "the thing that mattered most to her," her wacky, warmhearted family, and the loving community of Yungabilla, her small Australian town, she's going to give it a try.

India experiences many ups and downs on her road to Sydney. She is "terribly, horribly shy," and freezes in panic whenever attention lands on her. The idea of appearing in front of millions of people on TV is "daunting (intimidating)," to put it mildly. When her Yungabilla neighbors host a mock spelling bee in which every audience member wears animal costumes--chickens, pandas, frogs, peacocks--India relaxes briefly, but the nerves keep returning, even as she continues to win official rounds that bring her closer to the championship. And it's not only stage fright. She's also concerned about the mounting costs of the bees. And there's her very serious worry about her little brother, Boo, who suffers from severe asthma. As they all bump along toward the big event, the chances that India can make it through without "pass[ing] out or throw[ing] up" are "precarious (uncertain)."

Each chapter of Deborah Abela's The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee starts with a spelling word and its definition, hinting at the events to come. Abela, whose previous books include the Spyforce series and the Max Remy Superspy series, gives her characters, who are depicted in simple black-and-white line drawings, a realistic and comforting depth. Anyone who has ever experienced anxiety due to their own ambition will understand exactly how India feels, right up to the "splendiferous (excellent)" conclusion. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

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