Fri. Jun 9th, 2023

Book cover

MacNolia Cox was neither the first African American child to win a national spelling contest (1908) nor the next (2021)—but she was the first even to win a spot as a finalist in all the intervening decades and, Weatherford suggests, could well have won except for some rule-bending by the judges. Using a call-and-response cadence (“Can you spell dedication? / DEDICATION”), the author pays tribute to the Akron, Ohio, eighth grader’s indomitable spirit and focus as well as her love of words while recording the public excitement she caused by winning her school and then citywide bees. With a teacher, a reporter, and her mother, MacNolia then traveled to Washington, DC, where she experienced segregation (even on stage, in the accompanying, pointedly wordless, picture) but “nailed word after word.” She didn’t win the championship but proved something important by her example: “That was MacNolia’s triumph.” Her slender figure glows with character in Morrison’s illustrations, too, where she pores studiously through dictionaries here, poses with celebrities like Joe Louis and Fats Waller there, waves gravely to a cheering crowd as she boards a train for the nation’s capital, and afterward returns to her hometown in graceful, silent dignity. (This book was digitally reviewed.)

By cb2gp