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You can use the form on the right to contact Deborah Lee Rose.

613 Ahwahnee Court
Walnut Creek, CA, 94596
United States


The Spelling Bee Before Recess

THE SPELLING BEE BEFORE RECESS includes four spelling lists to hold your own bee at school, home, library, community center, or anywhere! In April 2013, the Scripps National Spelling Bee announced new rules—that contestants nationwide must non be able to “tell what the word means.” This is just what happens in the book!

About the Book

The school spelling bee enters its final, nail-biting round—two finalists, one minute to recess, and no one is winning! When the principal throws in a great big word as a tiebreaker, the spellers must spell and tell what the word means. Who will triumph, and who will strike out? Go back to school with the award-winning team behind the bestselling TWELVE DAYS school series, in a new spelling bee story with a twist!

Written by Deborah Lee Rose, illustrated by Carey F. Armstrong-Ellis, published by Abrams Books for Young Readers

Read Deborah’s interview in Reading Today Online. 

For review copies, author visits and events, contact Jason Wells at Abrams Books for Young Readers,


“To create this book, I looked at hundreds of spelling words in lists from public and private schools across the country. I chose words from many school subjects and themes, including animals, language arts, the environment, science and math, as well as words that allude to everyday kid stuff. I also chose words with lots of varied sounds and letter combinations, and rhyming words with different spellings, so this book is a lesson on many levels!”—Deborah Lee Rose


  • Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
  • Describe how words and phrases (e.g. regular beats, alliteration, rhymes, repeated lines) supply rhythm and meaning in a story, poem or song.
  • Describe the overall structure of a story, including describing how the beginning introduces the story and the ending concludes the action.
  • Acknowledge differences in the points of view of characters, including by speaking in a different voice for each character when reading dialogue aloud.
  • Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.

School Library Journal

“Colorful, expressive illustrations support the excitement and anticipation created through the text. This story will fill a need in school libraries for books about spelling, vocabulary, sportsmanship, and school community-building. This delightful rhyming tale of one school’s spelling bee not only shares new vocabulary with readers but also shows that no one wins at everything. The finals come down to just three students: Cornelius, dubbed the 'genius,' who is out of the competition first; Ruby, a musically inclined, avid reader; and one baseball player known as 'The Slugger,' who tells the story of how he does not win the contest. The whole school learns about a new word, ‘sesquipedalian, when Ruby spells the word correctly and also defines it in a tie-breaking round. A note from the author indicates that the words in this competition were compiled from hundreds of spelling lists from across the country.”


“Fun-filled illustrations bring this book to life. This is a great addition to any library.”


"…the story unfolds with ease, wit, and frequent baseball metaphors. The telling works exceptionally well…dynamic, imaginative illustrations, created using ink, gouache, and colored pencils in a quirky style that suits the story’s tone quite well. A lively picture book."

USA Today

"I confess: I was the worst speller in the history of P.S. 213 in Queens, N.Y., but I enjoyed and laughed my way through this epic spelling bee story. It matches 'smart Ruby' – who’s read 'at least ten zillion books, maybe more' – and the book’s male narrator, nicknamed 'The Slugger.' He has 'never struck out,' memorized word lists and boasts, 'I’d win this – NO doubt.' Told in clever rhyme, the suspense builds until author Rose borrows a word from Tom Chapin’s song 'Great Big Words'. Ruby not only knows how to spell 'sesquipedalian' (yes, it’s been spellchecked), but what it means: 'someone who uses big words. But, as Ruby reminds The Slugger, 'there’s always next year.'"
—Bob Minzesheimer

San Francisco Chronicle

Author Deborah Lee Rose borrows the rhythm and structure of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” to tell a spelling bee story starring a diverse cast of contestants, school staff and audience….Cute characters, lively rhymes, ample word lists and a good level of dramatic tension bolster the clear message that to succeed, you must understand the meaning of words – not just memorize spellings – and the key to that is reading.

Kirkus Reviews

Armstrong-Ellis’ illustrations—a complex product of gouache, ink and colored pencil—have sharp resolution and humorous touches…Rose’s “Casey at the Bat”–inflected verse is above average…