Deborah Abela, The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery, Random House Australia, 30 April 2018, 240pp., $14.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9780143786689
This is the second in a series featuring India and her spelling talents, though it doesn’t seem to be marketed that way. It’s not entirely necessary to have read the first one, but it might allow young readers to see more of the character development, which evolves over the two books.
But on to this book: After competing in the Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee, India is invited to an international spelling showdown in London, but is torn about who to take as her chaperone. She would like the whole family to go, but that’s something they simply can’t afford. Her quick-thinking little brother Boo comes to the rescue and the Wimples head off to London.
In London, the Wimples (and readers) are introduced to Holly, Peter, Rajish and Summer, who were both in the first book. Rajish and India have crushes on each other, and while Summer is (still) the spoiled girl of book 1, she is also willing to change.
All the kids are dealing with different issues in their families: Holly is the forgotten child, who never quite measures up to a family focused on the physical because she is a champion speller. Peter is being bullied at school and longs to be able to reconnect with his father, who left him and his mother when they were young. And Summer is there on her own, without her parents, while Rajish is dealing with overly affectionate parents, due to an incident in the first book.
There are references like this peppered through the book, but Abela explains these well enough that you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything.
The Spelling Bee actually takes up less of the book than you’d think, for Abela focuses on the characters’ bonding and their issues with their families – not to mention a case of sabotage of the event.
The four kids band together to solve the mystery as to who wants the event cancelled, while supporting each other, and learning new things about each other as well.
Another aspect of this book that’s fun is the spelling practice everyone puts in, which the author makes fun to do! It’ll perhaps give parents and teachers some interesting ideas on how to work on spelling with their kids.
This is a story that’s less about a spelling bee, and more about friendship, and standing up for one another, and most importantly standing up – and believing in — yourself.
Reviewed by Verushka Byrow