THE MOST MARVELOUS INTERNATIONAL SPELLING BEE

From the Spectacular Spelling Bee series , Vol. 2

The irrepressible Wimple family returns.

India Wimple, Australia’s champion speller, has returned home from her victory at the Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee in Sydney. Now that the mayor has awarded her the Yungabilla Medallion and giant plastic zucchini in commemoration of her feat, she just wants to get back to her quiet life. But then a letter arrives: an invitation to the Most Marvelous International Spelling Bee! Soon, the Wimples are off to London, where a mystery arises when a saboteur strikes. India is on the case, joined once again by her sweet and kooky family and pals Rajish and Summer, Australia’s other two top spellers. New competitors-turned-friends include bullied English boy Peter and a neglected Canadian girl named Holly, both of whom are looking for acceptance. Absurd humor abounds: When the contestants and their parents meet the queen, Holly’s fitness-guru parents try to sell her their Beaut Butts and Guts exercise program; the Wimples can’t understand why no-nonsense Nanna Flo keeps giggling (she’s smitten with Peter’s grandfather); and the bee’s special guest is the only three-time world champion, a grown man resembling Liberace. Combine this with Bitskoff’s spot cartoons and lots of vocabulary that will be new to many young readers, and much merriment and edification mark this story of bravery, friendship, and logophilia. The cast is primarily white or assumed white; Indian-Australian Rajish and his family are notable exceptions.

Another round of laughs. (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6819-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic.

STICKS AND STONES

Veteran picture-book creator Polacco tells another story from her childhood that celebrates the importance of staying true to one’s own interests and values.

After years of spending summers with her father and grandmother, narrator Trisha is excited to be spending the school year in Michigan with them. Unexpectedly abandoned by her summertime friends, Trisha quickly connects with fellow outsiders Thom and Ravanne, who may be familiar to readers from Polacco’s The Junkyard Wonders (2010). Throughout the school year, the three enjoy activities together and do their best to avoid school bully Billy. While a physical confrontation between Thom (aka “Sissy Boy”) and Billy does come, so does an opportunity for Thom to defy convention and share his talent with the community. Loosely sketched watercolor illustrations place the story in the middle of the last century, with somewhat old-fashioned clothing and an apparently all-White community. Trisha and her classmates appear to be what today would be called middle schoolers; a reference to something Trisha and her mom did when she was “only eight” suggests that several years have passed since that time. As usual, the lengthy first-person narrative is cozily conversational but includes some challenging vocabulary (textiles, lackeys, foretold). The author’s note provides a brief update about her friends’ careers and encourages readers to embrace their own differences. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2622-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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