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Children's Review: How Do You Spell Unfair? MacNolia Cox and the National Spelling Bee by Carol Boston Weatherford

Title: How Do You Spell Unfair? MacNolia Cox and the National Spelling Bee
Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
Year published: 2023
Category: Children's fiction (historical)
Pages: 40 pages
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location: (my 2023 Google Reading map)USA (OH; Washington, DC)

Summary MacNolia Cox was no ordinary kid.
Her idea of fun was reading the dictionary.

In 1936, eighth grader MacNolia Cox became the first African American to win the Akron, Ohio, spelling bee. And with that win, she was asked to compete at the prestigious National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC, where she and a girl from New Jersey were the first African Americans invited since its founding. She left her home state a celebrity—right up there with Ohio’s own Joe Louis and Jesse Owens—with a military band and a crowd of thousands to see her off at the station. But celebration turned to chill when the train crossed the state line into Maryland, where segregation was the law of the land. Prejudice and discrimination ruled—on the train, in the hotel, and, sadly, at the spelling bee itself. With a brief epilogue recounting MacNolia’s further history, How Do You Spell Unfair? is the story of her groundbreaking achievement magnificently told by award-winning creators and frequent picture-book collaborators Carole Boston Weatherford and Frank Morrison.

Review: I received this book from the publisher after they saw my review of Boston Weatherford's earlier book Unspeakable (see my review here). How could I say no to this book? Unspeakable was really well done and I have a thing for the National Spelling Bee and an underdog.

I am so glad I read this book. It is interesting, covers a story that is not well known to most US readers, and the illustrations are wonderful. There is an introduction giving a little background about spelling bees and there is an afterword giving more information about other African American students and their experiences with segregated spelling bees. It wasn't until 1962 that the Scripps National Spelling Bee was integrated. Wow.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Bookish
  • Literary Escapes--Ohio, Washington, DC
  • Nonfiction--published in 2023
  • Popsugar--spring 2023 publication; shortest book on my TBR

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