I Put a Spell on You: From the Files of Chrissie Woodward, Spelling Bee Detective

I Put a Spell on You: From the Files of Chrissie Woodward, Spelling Bee Detective

by Adam Selzer

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COME SPELLING BEE season, the tiny town of Preston erupts in excitement: the bee is televised, and the hottest ticket in town. This year, an assortment of sixth-grade miscreants is going for the top prize: Jennifer, an overscheduled free spirit whose parents are obsessed with her college applications; Mutual, a previously home-schooled outsider who's enrolled in


COME SPELLING BEE season, the tiny town of Preston erupts in excitement: the bee is televised, and the hottest ticket in town. This year, an assortment of sixth-grade miscreants is going for the top prize: Jennifer, an overscheduled free spirit whose parents are obsessed with her college applications; Mutual, a previously home-schooled outsider who's enrolled in public school for the first time in order to participate in the bee; Harlan, the class clown who has spectacular plans for making the most of his time in the spotlight; and Chrissie, the constant observer, who suspects something is off at the bee and will stop at nothing to get to the truth. Principal Floren is acting shady to everyone—but, as he insists, “I am not a crook.”

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Jennie DeGenaro
If you want to read an interesting, amusing book based on the happenings at an elementary spelling bee, this is the book for you. It will keep boys and girls turning pages to see what will happen next. Chrissie Woodward, protagonist, writes journals about her sixth grade classmates. She is trying to help the school and shares the information with the office. She is given special privileges for her cooperation. Each chapter is written by a different student in first person, and their different personalities are obvious. Parents are anxious for their children to win the Bee because they believe it will help them get into a prestigious university. The town is interested in the Spelling Bee, and television stations and newspapers send reporters to cover the event. The competition becomes intense, and Chrissie catches the principal trying to change the outcome of the competition. Students want desperately to win, so they can go to the District Bee. When several students qualify for the district match, they allow another student to win. They know that he wants to win even more than they do. At the end of the Bee, Chrissie, Spelling Bee Detective, shows a film picturing the unprofessional conduct of the principal. Now everyone knows the unethical person he is. The book is dedicated to "Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, and Mark Felt American Heroes" Reviewer: Jennie DeGenaro
School Library Journal

Gr 5-7

The annual spelling bee at Gordon Liddy Community School is a big deal. The local newspaper and television stations cover it and the whole town shows up. This year, the hoopla is even bigger than usual. There is a new, formerly homeschooled, student in sixth grade who some people fear may win. A student's father broke into the school and attempted to steal the master word list. Tensions are running high. Sixth-grader Chrissie works for the principal, gathering dirt on her classmates, but when information she gathers is used to prevent an innocent student from participating in the bee, she realizes that the administration may be corrupt and she uses her detective skills to get to the bottom of the big buzz. Framed as Chrissie's case notes, interview transcripts, and emails, this funny, light mystery covers the weeks leading up to the competition. The characters are set types-class clown, stressed-out brainiac, bad boy with a heart of gold-but they grow and change by the book's end as the kids try to do the right thing, avoid the adult corruption, and just enjoy the bee. This is a fun, silly read with a casual, conversational tone befitting all the different characters' voices. The hijinks may be wacky, but kids will want to keep reading to find out what happens at the climactic event.-Geri Diorio, The Ridgefield Library, CT

Kirkus Reviews
Alternating voices relate this farcical mystery. The spelling bee is coming up at Gordon Liddy Community School, and everyone has lost perspective. Former school tattletale Chrissie Woodward is the only one in her grade not to sign up for the bee. The parents are behaving far worse than the participants, and it is clear to Chrissie that the principal is trying to sabotage certain students in order to fix the results. Selzer tells the story through Chrissie's detective reports as well as the written notes that several kids give her. Because she has been such a goody two-shoes as school monitor, she has access to interoffice memos, which also become part of the narrative. Each chapter starts with a spelling word, followed by its definition and ironic use in a sentence. Suspension of disbelief is definitely in order here, but reluctant readers may enjoy the pranks and belching jokes, as well as the general portrayal of adults as overachievement-obsessed lunatics. Dedicated to Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Mark Felt, Chrissie's fellows in investigative reporting. (Fiction. 8-12)
From the Publisher
“Smart and savvy on all fronts. . . . Full of read-out-loud-to-whoeverhappens- to-be-around passages.”
The Bulletin, on How to Get Suspended and Influence People

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
File size:
386 KB
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

myxomatosis--noun. A disease only rabbits get. Even though she studied rabbits for a living, Samantha was not exactly sure how to spell "myxomatosis," and didn't particularly care.

You might think this is weird, Chrissie, but I love it when snow gets into my shoes and my ankles get so cold that they actually hurt. Everyone knows that there's no feeling in the world better than taking off cold, snowy socks and putting on something warm, right? Well, you can't get that feeling if you don't get snow in your shoes in the first place. So when I walk home from school, I step in every snowdrift I see. Sometimes I just shove the snow right into my socks when I get close to home.

Does that seem too weird? I know I'm a little weird, but most of the people in this town are completely nuts. There's a difference, you know. And I'm not really sure which one of the two I am sometimes.

Anyway, you wanted my story from the beginning, right? That's where it starts. Walking through the snow. I was walking home last Monday, and I heard Marianne Cleaver coming up behind me.

"Jenn-i-fffeerrrrr!" she shouted.

She was hopping around, trying to step in the footsteps everyone else had already left, making her braids flop about like they were snakes attached to her head. It's a safe bet that she's never had a single snowflake get into her shoes. If you ask me, Marianne is a remarkably boring person.

If you gave me a choice between talking to her and having a bunch of bowling balls dropped on my toes, I'd have to think long and hard about which to choose. If I were any meaner, I would have just run away, or maybe creamed her with some fresh snow, but I paused and waited for her to catch up with me.

"Hi, Marianne," I said, as politely as I could.

"I have to talk to you!" she said.

Well, that's just super, I thought. I assumed that she probably wanted me to join some new after-school activity she was starting--and that my parents would make me join, no matter how stupid it was. They're always looking for new ways to pad my college application, even though I won't be applying to any colleges for at least five more years. With all my activities, I'm lucky to get twenty free minutes per night.

"What's up?" I asked.

"Are you going to enter?" she asked.

"Enter what?" I asked, pretending not to know.

"The bee," said Marianne, as though she were talking to a five-year-old. "Are you entering? A, yes, B, no, or C, undecided."
Have you ever heard of people who read so many old books about knights that it sort of gets into their head, and they start putting bowls on their heads and running around thinking that they're knights themselves? Well, Marianne is like that with tests.

She takes a practice SAT every night. Most of the books she reads in class during sustained silent reading (SSR) are books on test-taking skills. And somewhere along the line, she started thinking she WAS a test, or her brain got stuck in testing mode, or something like that. Whatever it is, it makes her speak in multiple-choice questions. It's like I was just saying--I may be weird, but I'm pretty sure she's nuts. She's always going around saying that she's "gifted," but I think that if I had whatever gift she has, I'd want to exchange it.

"C," I said, "undecided."

I jumped a step ahead of her to slide across a patch of smooth ice on the sidewalk in front of somebody's driveway. I'm an expert ice slider.

"But you did better than anyone else in our grade last year," said Marianne. "That makes you a prime contender."

"I guess so," I said. "What's it to you?"

"Well, isn't it obvious?" asked Marianne. "I need to know what the competition is going to be like, and I thought you might chicken out. So are you entering? You can't be undecided. Just A, yes, or B, no."

"I don't think I'll enter," I said, casually.

I actually knew perfectly well that I'd be entering. I just wanted to see how she'd react if I said I wasn't. It's fun to push Marianne's buttons sometimes.

"Can you tell me why not in fifty words or less?"

I stopped spinning for a second and wondered if Marianne was actually going to count how many words I used. I wouldn't have been surprised.

"Well, I won't be able to study much with all my other activities, for one thing."

My parents make me join everything. I was a member of the School Spirit Squad, secretary of the Recycling Club, and even the founder, and sole member, of the Flying Mermaids, the Gordon Liddy Community School synchronized swimming team. And on afternoons when the school doesn't have an activity or two to keep me occupied, they find other places for me to go. Until the school golf club and indoor soccer started to take up too much time, they'd signed me up as a volunteer bedpan cleaner at the nursing home. Yuck.

don't even learn anything from most of them--most of them just take up time when I could actually be learning something. Honestly, sitting around eating cat food would be a better way to spend time than most of the activities, if you ask me. All I do in most of them is sit around while everyone else gossips about the people who aren't there.

But according to my parents, having an impressive college application is more important than actually being smart. I really hope they're wrong. I know for a fact that they're completely nuts, and people who are nuts tend to be wrong a lot, right?
But Marianne's parents believe the same thing, and she agrees with them completely.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Adam Selzer lives in downtown Chicago. Check him out on the Web at www.adamselzer.com.

From the Hardcover edition.

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