How Do You Spell Unfair?

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A book review of How Do You Spell Unfair? MacNolia Cox and the National Spelling Bee by Carole Boston Weatherford

A book review of How Do You Spell Unfair? MacNolia Cox and the National Spelling Bee by Carole Boston Weatherford

Stars: ****

Candlewick Press (2023)
Picture Book
40 pages

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

Summary: 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.

How Do You Spell Unfair?

Whether you have a spelling bee coming up, are learning about Black History or just love picture books, this book is a great read about an important part of history.

Although we still have a long way to go, our world is more fair to Black people than it used to be and this book depicts the way it was and how change was starting to come to the world in the 1930s. MacNolia Cox was a real girl who really entered a spelling bee. However as the epilogue states:

“The fight to integrate spelling bees did not start with Cox. Nor did it end with her.”


The epilogue goes on to explain more about the history of segregation and spelling bees. I found this very interesting as it’s something I was not aware of.

The book itself was a thought provoking read, even for me (and adult.) I recommend it to all but especially those learning about Black history and segregation specifically.

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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.