Spell Across America: 40 Word-Based Stories, Puzzles, and Trivia Facts Offer a Road-Trip Tour Across the United States

illus. by James K. Hindle. 96p. index. photos. Roaring Brook. May 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626721753.
Gr 2–5—Scripps National Spelling Bee has come out with its second book for elementary school students. Similar to Feed Me Words, created by the same author and illustrator duo, this title is intended to help children prepare for spelling contests and improve their vocabulary. Each spread is comprised of a short story with highlighted words, a puzzle, a definition box, and a "Did You Know?" factoid. The 40 puzzles range from simple word searches to more complicated games that teach parts of speech. As befits the theme, each tale takes place in a different part of the country. There's not a lot of depth to the stories—these aren't texts designed to teach reading comprehension or even to provide much information about the places visited. Rather, they're simply there to introduce words. The illustrations are colorful and depict a diverse number of families, but they, too, are merely background. The vocabulary is the star of the show. None of the words are overly difficult—readers won't find gesellschaft or nunatak (one of 2015's winning words, meaning an isolated peak)—but that's probably just as well.
VERDICT Because of the interactive nature of the book, which encourages readers to write in the pages, this is not an ideal choice for a public library, but it would make a fun addition to many school libraries and classrooms.

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