by Tonya Duncan Ellis

Sign up for the spelling bee? No way!

If there’s one thing 10-year-old Texan Sophie Washington is good at, it’s spelling. She’s earned straight 100s on all her spelling tests to prove it. Her parents want her to compete in the Xavier Academy spelling bee, but Sophie wishes they would buzz off.

Her life in the Houston suburbs is full of adventures, and she doesn’t want to slow down the action. Where else can you chase wild hogs out of your yard, ride a bucking sheep, or spy an eight-foot-long alligator during a bike ride through the neighborhood? Studying spelling words seems as fun as getting stung by a hornet, in comparison.

That’s until her irritating classmate, Nathan Jones, challenges her. There’s no way she can let Mr. Know-It-All win. Studying is hard when you have a pesky younger brother and a busy social calendar. Can Sophie ignore the distractions and become Queen of the Bee?

In fairytales, everyone’s wish comes true. Jack gets the goose that lays the golden egg. Cinderella finds Prince Charming. Pinocchio becomes a real boy. My happily ever after is much simpler. I want a pet goldfish. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. But my parents do. For the past year they have been putting me off every time I beg them for a pet.

“I’m allergic to cats and dogs,” says Mom. There’s no way we could keep a furry animal in the house.”

“Well, what about a fish?” I ask.

“I don’t know if you’re responsible enough to take care of a goldfish, Sophie,” says Dad. “You might drop the bowl and get water all over the place.”

For a ten-year-old I am very responsible. If you forget about the time my brother, Cole, and I had a water fight with the sprinkler in the garage, or when I tied Cole up to a tree to keep him from tagging along with me and my friend Chloe, I’m a model child. I get good grades in school. I’m nice to my friends. And I help out in the house when Mom and Dad ask me to.

Today, I’m making my dream come true! I’m going to convince Dad to let me get a pet goldfish. I march toward the kitchen in my pink and white polka-dot pajamas and lime green fuzzy slippers. After glancing in the hallway mirror, I push down my two, thick black braids, which stick out on each side of my head like handlebars. “Good morning,” I say to my mother, who is busy in the kitchen making my favorite breakfast of bacon, eggs, grits and homemade pancakes.

Since Dad is not up to hear me beg for a fish again, I make my way to the family room to watch a recording of a television show I taped during the school week. Cole rushes into the room before me and grabs the remote control from the end table before I can reach it. “Get back!” I yell. He turns on “Video Rangers”, his favorite TV show. Then he puts the remote control under a pillow, sits on it and passes gas. “Eeeewww! Give me that remote, Cole!” I shriek. “You knew I was getting ready to use it.”

“Moooom! I was here first, and now she wants to change the channel,” he whines.



~Follow the rest of the tour


Tonya Duncan Ellis hits the ground running with this perfect book for late elementary/early middle school readers. As an older reader, QUEEN OF THE BEE spoke to all my kid fears. I remember vividly tryouts for the fifth grade spelling bee, where I accidentally spelled canyon with a K. So I got to live vicariously through Sophie as she spelled words correctly, which was a lot of fun.

Ellis does a brilliant job with the sibling dynamic. Sophie’s relationship with her younger brother is spot-on. Most of the time, they argue like kids do, but there’s a moment where Sophie’s brother shows he really loves his sister under all the sibling rivalry. It was one of the sweetest things I’ve ever read. Sophie’s relationship with her parents is similarly realistic. Proud parents balance out discipline evenly. This book even features the “cool” grandma coming to visit and spoiling the kids. Adorable.

The tension was great. Sophie’s “enemy,” Nate (aka Mr. Know-It-All), was the perfect antagonist. Ellis even provided a few glimpses into Nate’s life outside of pestering Sophie, and they were a great addition to the story. I felt for Nate and would love to see a later book where Sophie and Nate become allies. Sophie’s guts could help Nate out.

Ellis is definitely a children’s/middle grade author to look out for. She blends entertainment and education (both academic and otherwise) seamlessly. The spelling bee is a great backdrop for the typical struggles of elementary school. I’m looking forward to more of these books.


Tonya Ellis loves reading so much that as a child she took books with her everywhere rather than put them down. She knew she wanted to become a writer after an article she wrote was published in her hometown newspaper when she was fourteen years old. Since then, Tonya has worked as a journalist, written for newspapers and magazines and won awards for her books. She is the mom of three spelling bee champions, and has judged several spelling bee events. SOPHIE WASHINGTON: QUEEN OF THE BEE is her debut novel in a series about Sophie and her friends. Currently, Ms. Ellis lives in Missouri City, Texas with her husband, daughter, and two sons.

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Tonya Duncan Ellis will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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10 thoughts on “SOPHIE WASHINGTON: QUEEN OF THE BEE by Tonya Duncan Ellis

  1. Thanks for featuring me on your blog and for the thoughtful review! I was never in a spelling bee myself but judged a few spelling contests my kids were in. Many kids misspelled words they knew because they were nervous! 🙂

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