The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee by Deborah Abela

I buy lot of books for my kids at Christmas time, books making up the bulk of their treats under the tree on Christmas morning. They’re bookworms and the January holidays is a great time to read.

The three of them usually have a few books on the go at a time, some they read to themselves and some that either my husband or I will read to them. Reading aloud is a lovely way to spend time together and I don’t want to miss out on some of the wonderful books they’re reading. I’ll be honest, sometimes I have more kids books on my ‘to read’ pile than I do books for adults.

This Christmas one of the books under our tree was The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee by Deborah Abela.

The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee book

I couldn’t decide who to give this one too as it seemed like something all three of them would enjoy. So it went into Mr 9’s pile and was promptly scooped up by Ms 11 and devoured immediately. I later read it aloud to Mr 9.

The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee is the tale of India Wimple, a girl from the town of Yungabilla with a gift for spelling and a case of stage fright. India’s family encourages her to compete in The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee, a national television show, and they’re determined to be there for her every step of the way.

Deborah Abela creates a beautiful cast of characters full of refreshing warmth and humour. India lives with her Mum and Dad, her little brother, Boo, who suffers from chronic asthma, and her  Nanna Flo. Nanna Flo has an unlikely sidekick and dispenses wisdom and wisecracks in equal measure. Ms 11 said, “I love how much India’s family really love each other. So many books have characters who hate their parents or brothers and sisters.”

Each chapter starts a tricky word, such as ‘tremulous’. The words are followed by definitions and the word put into a sentence. These words set the tone of the chapter and give the reader a hint as to what will lie ahead. They are a great way to keep the spelling bee theme fresh with the added benefit of teaching young readers new vocabulary.

India eventually reaches the finals of the competition meets other finalists including Summer Millicent Ernestine Beauregard-Champion a demanding rich girl, and Rajish, a boy whose dictionary-clutching father is never far away.

There were plenty of laugh out loud moments throughout the book and I was sad to say goodbye to the characters when we finished. We would certainly be very happy readers if Deborah were to write a sequel.

 A post book activity

Miss 11 tracing a word onto her hand, like India does in the book.

Miss 11 tracing a word onto her hand, like India does in the book.

After reading the book we had our very own spelling bee using words from the book.

The kids stood up and I gave them words to spell, some chosen randomly and some were India’s spelling words from the story. I tailored the choices to their ages and ability. If they spelled their word correctly, they kept standing. If they misspelled the word, they sat down.


They became very excited when they managed to spell a tricky word and literally rolled around on the floor laughing when one of them was distracted and spelled “gooble” rather than “gobble”. There was just the right amount of healthy competition and a lot more laughter.

When the kids were put on the spot they realised how tricky the words were that India spelled throughout the story.

 “Wow, India Wimple must be super smart because some of those words are pretty impressive,” said Miss 11. I agree, there were a few in there that would have stumped me too.

The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee was written by Deborah Abela and published by Random House Australia.