Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Sophie Washington: Queen of the Bee Review Tour

Sign up for the spelling bee? No way!

If there’s one thing 10-year-old Texan Sophie Washington is good at, it’s spelling. She’s earned straight 100s on all her spelling tests to prove it. Her parents want her to compete in the Xavier Academy spelling bee, but Sophie wishes they would buzz off.

Her life in the Houston suburbs is full of adventures, and she doesn’t want to slow down the action. Where else can you chase wild hogs out of your yard, ride a bucking sheep, or spy an eight-foot-long alligator during a bike ride through the neighborhood? Studying spelling words seems as fun as getting stung by a hornet, in comparison.

That’s until her irritating classmate, Nathan Jones, challenges her. There’s no way she can let Mr. Know-It-All win. Studying is hard when you have a pesky younger brother and a busy social calendar. Can Sophie ignore the distractions and become Queen of the Bee?

 “Turn the television off, and you two go get the newspaper and pull the garbage can up to the garage,” says Mom, shaking her head and pouring more pancake batter into the skillet. “All this arguing is going to make me burn breakfast.” 

I clench my fists to keep from wringing Cole’s neck. “Did you tell Mom about the contest?” he loudly yells over blips and bleeps. He is playing a Video Rangers cartridge on his Nintendo DS game now that the television is off. 

“What contest?” asks Dad, entering the kitchen. 

“Oh, it’s nothing really,” I say. “Just something Mrs. Green was talking about at school on Friday . . .” 

“It’s the big spelling bee, and they want all the kids in the third grade and up to be in it,” pipes up Cole. “Mrs. Green said she hopes Sophie signs up, since she’s such a great speller.” 

“That sounds like a wonderful opportunity for you, Sophie,” Mom says. “You are really good at spelling.”

“Sign up first thing Monday morning,” says Dad. “Maybe we can start you studying this weekend. Did they give you a list of spelling words?” 

“I need to check my backpack, Dad. It’s out in the garage,” I say, trying to change the subject.

“Come on, Cole, Mom told us to get the paper.” 

“Why can’t you go out to the driveway by yourself?” he complains. “We’re not even through eating.” 

“Go help your sister,” Mom commands. 

We head out the garage door to the driveway. “You are such a tattletale,” I say, nudging Cole once we are out of earshot. “Why’d you have to tell Mom and Dad about the spelling bee?” He elbows me back. Then we both stop in our tracks. Three hairy pigs are running around our front yard.

My Review:
3.5 stars

As this is the first book in the series, we start by learning the three things about Sophie: she’s spunky, wants a goldfish, and doesn’t like this spelling bee. While that seems to be her description through most of the book, we do learn more about her, and this is where the story did well. Even with the limited character development (and even though it’s been a while since I was in middle school), I could relate to Sophie’s struggles, particularly in dealing with Nathan, as her experiences and reactions were realistic, particularly her relationship with her younger brother.

I also liked how the author wove life lessons into the story organically, which kept them from feeling preachy. My favorite parts though were the cultural aspects woven into the story and the (as I refer to them) “only-in-Texas moments.” These parts strengthened the story and added in humor while educating the reader on other cultures.

My only problem with this book is that aspects of it are underdeveloped. For example, the chapters and side stories focusing on Sophie and her family rather than the spelling bee, while there to further introduce the characters, come across disjointed and feel like they were added on as an afterthought, rather than a developed part of Sophie’s life while preparing for the bee.

Plus, while we get to know details about Sophie and her family, other prominent characters are underdeveloped, especially Nathan. For example, it’s hinted that Nathan has an abusive dad or bad home life. Yet this goes no further than being mentioned, presumably to be dealt with in future books. However, the way these mentions are dropped in and then just left, especially with the scene with Nathan and his family at the end of the book, comes across very awkwardly. I felt there should have been more said or this detail should have been left out, as it just felt very awkward to have that scene and then have two rainbows and sunshine concluding paragraphs. These underdeveloped parts left a noticeable hole in book 1, so I hope they are fleshed out in future books.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a nostalgic trip down memory lane or for anyone looking for a clean, wholesome read (complete with a few good life lessons) for your middle grader.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Don’t forget to visit the other stops on the tour.

Author Bio and Links:
Tonya Ellis loves reading so much that as a child she took books with her everywhere rather than put them down. She knew she wanted to become a writer after an article she wrote was published in her hometown newspaper when she was fourteen years old. Since then, Tonya has worked as a journalist, written for newspapers and magazines and won awards for her books. She is the mom of three spelling bee champions, and has judged several spelling bee events. SOPHIE WASHINGTON: QUEEN OF THE BEE is her debut novel in a series about Sophie and her friends. Currently, Ms. Ellis lives in Missouri City, Texas with her husband, daughter, and two sons.

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Buy links:
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  1. Thanks for hosting me on your blog and for the review!

  2. I enjoyed getting to know your book; congrats on the tour and I hope it is a fun one for you :)

  3. Thanks Rita! I appreciate you stopping by my tour!

  4. Glad to see you Victoria. Good luck on the giveaway!

  5. I really enjoyed reading the entire post, thank you!

  6. Thanks Nikolina! Best wishes in the giveaway!

  7. Thanks for hosting the giveaway. This looks like a fun read. I hope that I win. Bernie Wallace BWallace1980(at)hotmail(d0t)com