It's right before recess, and the annual school spelling bee is down to just three spellers: Cornelius the Genius, Smart Ruby, and The Slugger, who never strikes out. Round after round, the words whizz at them, but with one minute left until recess, there's still no winner. Who will triumph? It all comes down to one final word, and a curveball that no one sees coming! Deborah Lee Rose's clever rhyming text packs a laugh-out-loud wallop with words that young readers will enjoy spelling and reading aloud again and ...
It's right before recess, and the annual school spelling bee is down to just three spellers: Cornelius the Genius, Smart Ruby, and The Slugger, who never strikes out. Round after round, the words whizz at them, but with one minute left until recess, there's still no winner. Who will triumph? It all comes down to one final word, and a curveball that no one sees coming! Deborah Lee Rose's clever rhyming text packs a laugh-out-loud wallop with words that young readers will enjoy spelling and reading aloud again and again. Fun and whimsical illustrations by Carey F. Armstrong-Ellis provide the perfect balance of humor and suspense as readers find out whether The Slugger will hit a grand slam or finally strike out. The book includes three spelling lists that can be used for spelling bees at home, in school, at the library, or for community events. An author's note describes why and how words were chosen.
This rhyming tale of the competition between champion spellers teaches lessons of friendly rivalry, success, losing gracefully, and how coming in second can teach you to be next year's champ. However, the small references to Clement Clark Moore's Christmas tale are really not necessary and distract from the originality of the book's concept. The gouache illustrations are attractive and cartoony. Keep your eye out for the pesky spelling bee that appears on many pages. Each of the spelling contenders has his or her own area of expertise, from class genius, to "zillion book" reader, to sports champ/word memorizer. Words from the contest are given life through lively illustrations of romping reindeer, galloping giraffes, and zooming penguins. Ultimately, the contest comes down to one girl and one boy: the reader and the sports competitor. Then the rules of the competition change and the contestants must provide definitions for the spelling words. Advantage to the reader, and the "Slugger" slinks off with head bowed in loss. Then the librarian (you can tells she's a fun sort because she is wearing deely boppers on her head) explains that Ruby won because she reads and applies the meaning of her words rather than relying on rote memorization. Test words, of course, are in the back and it will be fun to see how many kids can spell a relatively challenging list. On the whole, this is a delightful book that offers a way that kids who are not athletically inclined can show their competitive skill. By all means, share it with your class and have a bee well before Christmas Eve. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—This delightful rhyming tale of one school's spelling bee not only shares new vocabulary with readers but also shows that no one wins at everything. The finals come down to just three students: Cornelius, dubbed the "genius," who is out of the competition first; Ruby, a musically inclined, avid reader; and one baseball player known as "The Slugger," who tells the story of how he does not win the contest. The whole school learns about a new word, "sesquipedalian," when Ruby spells the word correctly and also defines it in a tie-breaking round. A note from the author indicates that the words in this competition were compiled from hundreds of spelling lists from across the country. Colorful, expressive illustrations support the excitement and anticipation created through the text. This story will fill a need in school libraries for books about spelling, vocabulary, sportsmanship, and school community-building.—Lindsay Persohn, University of South Florida, Tampa
It's down to the final three. Can "The Slugger" win the big spelling bee? The championship round starts with easy words, like "cupcake" and "brain." Then there are harder words, like "reindeer," "rumpus" "llama" and ""giraffe," images of which go right from The Slugger's mind onto the page. Cornelius is eliminated on the word "mysterious," so only Ruby stands between him and victory. After nine rounds, the bee is deadlocked, and the principal makes a dramatic decision: The two contestants will give the definitions of words as well as spell them. The next word up is "sesquipedalian." The Slugger makes his best guess, but..."I was out! I'd been benched! / I was out like a jerk. / Ruby rose from her chair / and went straight to her work." The next day, it takes his teacher to gently set him straight. Ruby won since she knows what matters is to use words well; reading is better than just memorizing words. "And there's always next year." Armstrong-Ellis' illustrations--a complex product of gouache, ink and colored pencil--have sharp resolution and humorous touches, though they seem aimed at a younger audience than the text. Rose's "Casey at the Bat"–inflected verse is above average, but her baseball analogy is inconsistent, and worthy though it is, her message comes out of left field. A blooper. (Picture book. 5-9)
Deborah Lee Rose is an internationally published author whose award-winning books are among the New York Public Library's 100 Books to Read and Share. She is the author of Abrams' Twelve Days series, All the Seasons of the Year, and Someone's Sleepy. She lives with her family in Walnut Creek, California. Carey F. Armstrong-Ellis has illustrated Ten Creepy Monsters and the Twelve Days series. She lives with her family in Cape Neddick, Maine. Visit her online at slugworksrocks.com.