The National Spelling Bee and the Culture of Word Nerds

The Lives of Five Top Spellers As They Compete For Glory And Fame
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CONGRATULATIONS!: Kerry Close, winner of the 2006 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Kerry is one of the five spellers I profiled in American Bee.

If after watching the Scripps National Spelling Bee on television, you’ve ever asked yourself, “Who are these kids and what makes them tick?” American Bee will answer your questions.
~Paige Kimble
Director, Scripps National Spelling Bee

What the bestselling Word Freak did for Scrabble, this riveting narrative now does for the National Spelling Bee. Here is a captivating slice of Americana—part sporting event, part absorbing human drama, and part celebration of the magic of words.

Every spring in the nation’s capital, after a starting pool of 10 million kids narrows to 250 finalists, America’s top young spellers face off in a nail-biting contest that offers the adrenalin rush of any horse race or boxing match. So electric is the drama that viewers across the country tune in to watch ESPN’s live telecast.

But this national obsession is much more than a sporting story—and this first-ever nonfiction book about the National Spelling Bee immerses the reader in a unique subculture, portraying the endearing fraternity of brilliant, eccentric young word nerds who vie for a gold trophy, a hefty check, and a glorious moment of national fame.

Author James Maguire, who like the contestants is an inveterate word nut, captures the agony and joy of this singularly American event. He profiles five top spellers, exploring their hopes and dreams – and strategies for winning – as they prepare for their moment in the spotlight. The book goes behind the scenes at the National Bee, providing a narrative thrill ride as the tension mounts round by round, and finally, the last few finalists sweat and hope in the culmination of this great verbal contest.

Along the way, the story celebrates the richness and chaos of the English language, and covers the colorful history of a timeless American folk tradition.

[quote style=”boxed”]In American Bee, James Maguire captures the essence of spelling bees – the love of language and the visceral longing for achievement, and the delight and agony in every word.
~ Barrie Trinkle, 1973 Spelling Bee champion[/quote]

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