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How Do You Spell Unfair?: MacNolia Cox and the National Spelling Bee

How Do You Spell Unfair?: MacNolia Cox and the National Spelling Bee

By Carole Boston Weatherford and Illustrated by Frank Morrison


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A Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book

"This moving picture book portrays a girl who met injustice with dignity and excelled."—Booklist (starred review)

From a multi-award-winning pair comes a deeply affecting portrait of determination against discrimination: the story of young spelling champion MacNolia Cox.

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.

About the contributor(s)

Carole Boston Weatherford, a New York Times best-selling author and poet, was named the 2019 Washington Post–Children’s Book Guild Nonfiction Award winner. Her numerous books for children include the Coretta Scott King Author Award winner Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre, illustrated by Floyd Cooper; the Caldecott Honor Books Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, and Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, which was also a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book; the critically acclaimed Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library, illustrated by Eric Velasquez; and the Newbery Honor Book BOX: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom, illustrated by Michele Wood. Carole Boston Weatherford lives in North Carolina.

Frank Morrison has won numerous awards for his picture book illustration, including two Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards. He previously collaborated with Carole Boston Weatherford on Standing in the Need of Prayer: A Modern Retelling of the Classic Spiritual; R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul; How Sweet the Sound: The Story of Amazing Grace; and The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop. Frank Morrison lives outside Atlanta.

Book details

ISBN: 9781536215540
Publisher: Candlewick
Date published:
Page count: 40
Categories: Juvenile Nonfiction / Biography & Autobiography / Women, Juvenile Nonfiction / Social Topics / Civil & Human Rights, and Juvenile Nonfiction / Language Arts / Vocabulary & Spelling
Ages: 7 to 10

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