With warmth and candor, politician and voting rights activist Abrams tells a fictionalized story of her first spelling bee, emphasizing the value of education, of focusing on effort over result, and of standing up to bullying. Narrating in the third person, Abrams describes schoolgirl Stacey’s fascination with words (“Persnickety tickled her tongue”), including terms that comfort her when she is teased or lonely, and those that help her “explain what she was feeling.” (Throughout, Abrams revels in multisyllabic words: “The days of the week were monotonous, torturous, and sluggish.”) Alluring digital spreads by debut artist Thomas give Stacey, who is Black, curly pigtails and sparkly eyes filled with interest and curiosity. When an alert teacher notices Stacey’s prowess and invites her to participate in a local spelling bee, the competition is intimidating, and so is her rival—Jake, a white bully who uses his knowledge to make other kids feel small. A dramatic spelling bee sequence distributes triumph and defeat in unexpected ways, and Thomas’s spreads give the proceedings cinematic suspense. In competition, Abrams reminds readers, victory can take years to arrive—and integrity and courtesy are always more important. Ages 4–8. (Dec.)
Correction: A previous version of this review mistakenly referred to the author as the current Georgia gubernatorial candidate.
Reviewed on : 10/14/2021 Release date: 12/28/2021 Genre: Children's