Picture Book Review: 'A Very Witchy Spelling Bee' by George Shannon

Jul 16, 2013

A Very Witchy Spelling Bee

by George Shannon

Illustrated by Mark Fearing

Harcourt Children's Books, 2013

Cordelia is a young witch who loves to spell words and cast spells, so when it's time for the Witches' Double Spelling Bee, she decides to enter, even though the reigning champion, Beulah Divine, has 203 years of experience behind her... and is pretty mean!

The rules of the double spelling bee are as follows:

1. When your name is called, pull a letter out of the bowl. 

2. Choose something onstage and spell it.

3. Using the letter that you picked, cast a spell that transforms what you chose into something new.

4. Spell the new word.

It doesn't take long for Cordelia and Beulah to outspell their competition, but as they continue to compete for the championship, Beulah starts using Cordelia's body parts for her spells, turning her ears into pears and her hair into a chair! But Cordelia has studied, she's practiced, she's ready to win. And with a very clever double-spell, she turns a fiend into a friend!

The illustrations are in classic children's book style, with green-skinned witches with pointed hats and warts (although the evil witch is significantly uglier than the nicer witches). The greatest beauty in this book, however is in the clever concepts and play on words. Teachers and parents will enjoy this story as much as their children and students. 


George Shannon, like Cordelia, loves broccoli - but Cordelia is a much better speller than George. He does like words and letters, especially when they go into jokes and riddles. The award-winning author of more than thirty-five books for children, George lives in Washington State.

Mark Fearing was never a great speller; that's why he drew pictures. He still remembers studying for his weekly third grade spelling tests, but he got a perfect score only once. Mark has illustrated several award-winning books for children. He lives with his family in Oregon.


Renée Vaillancourt McGrath has worked at Montana Public Radio as a program host since 2002. Her background is in librarianship and she currently works as a freelance editor, blogger, and website developer. Check out more of her book reviews at