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)