Explore exciting worlds through the pages of books and discover new words along the way

The Bee's Bookshelf is the official book club of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Check out the books we've selected in past months and the resources we created for each book.

Sign up for the Bee's Bookshelf


January 2019

Amal Unbound

by Aisha Saeed


Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal's Pakistani village, but she has no complaints, and besides, she's busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Then the unimaginable happens—after an accidental run-in with the son of her village's corrupt landlord, Amal must work as the landlord's servant to pay off her own family's debt. 

Amal's life at the Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle, and there are enemies at every turn. Through it all she must find a way to maintain hope and courage in order to fight against the status quo and achieve her dreams.

• Amal Unbound Spelling List
• Themed bookmark for Amal Unbound
• Discussion group in Goodreads


Purchase January's selection

February 2019

The Lifters

by Dave Eggers

When Gran and his family move to Carousel, he has no idea that the town is built atop a secret. Little does he suspect, as he walks his sister to school or casually eats a banana, that mysterious forces lurk mere inches beneath his feet, tearing up the earth like mini-hurricanes and causing the town to slowly sink.


When Gran's friend, the difficult-to-impress Catalina Catalan, presses a silver handle into a hillside and opens a doorway to underground, he knows they are in for a wild adventure.

• The Lifters Spelling List
• Themed bookmark for The Lifters
• Discussion group in Goodreads


Purchase February's Selection

March 2019

The Night Diary

by Veera Hiranandani

It's 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn't know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. When Papa decides it's too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home.


Told through Nisha's letters to her mother, The Night Diary is a heartfelt story of one girl's search for home, for her own identity...and for a hopeful future.

• The Night Diary Spelling List
• Themed bookmark for The Night Diary
• Discussion group in Goodreads


Purchase March's Selection

April 2019

Front Desk

by Kelly Yang

Mia Tang has a lot of secrets. Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, ten-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests. Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they've been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed. Number 3: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language?

• Front Desk Spelling List
• Themed bookmark for Front Desk
• Discussion group in Goodreads


Purchase April's selection

May 2019

The Season of Styx Malone

by Kekla Magoon

Caleb Franklin and his big brother Bobby Gene are excited to have adventures in the woods behind their house. But Caleb dreams of venturing beyond their ordinary small town.


Then Caleb and Bobby Gene meet their new neighbor Styx Malone. Styx is sixteen and oozes cool. He promises the brothers that together, the three of them can pull off the Great Escalator Trade — exchanging one small thing for something better until they achieve their wildest dreams. But as the trades get bigger, the brothers soon find themselves in over their heads. Styx has secrets...secrets so big they could ruin everything.

• The Season of Styx Malone Spelling List
• Themed bookmark for The Season of Styx Malone
• Discussion group in Goodreads


Purchase May's Selection


Summer 2019

Louisiana's Way Home

by Kate DiCamillo


When Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas. But this time, things are different.

This time, Granny intends for them never to return. Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and find a way home.


• Louisiana's Way Home Spelling List
• Themed bookmark for Louisiana's Way Home
• Discussion group in Goodreads


Purchase the Summer's Selection

August 2019

Bronze and Sunflower

by Cao Wenxuan


After tragedy strikes, a young girl named Sunflower is taken in by the poorest family in her village, a family with a son named Bronze. Before Sunflower joined his family, Bronze was an only child, and hasn’t spoken a word since he was traumatized by a terrible fire. Bronze and Sunflower become inseparable, understanding each other as only the closest friends can.


Translated from Mandarin, Bronze and Sunfloweris a timeless story of the trials of poverty and the power of love and loyalty to overcome hardship.


• Bronze and Sunflower Spelling List
• Themed bookmark for Bronze and Sunflower
• Discussion group in Goodreads

Purchase August's selection

September 2019

See You Later, Gladiator

by Jon Scieszka

The Time Warp Trio is a series of books featuring the adventures of Joe, Sam and Fred as they are transported to different historical periods by a magic book.


In See You Later, Gladiator, the trio of friends find themselves in Rome in the first century A.D. They fight to survive gladiator school, make friends with a slave hoping to win his citizenship, run into the emperor and are part of the entertainment at the opening of the Colosseum!


• See You Later, Gladiator Spelling List
• Themed bookmark for See You Later, Gladiator

See You Later, Gladiator Word Search

Recommended books and activities about gladiators and ancient Rome
• Discussion group in Goodreads


Purchase September's Selection



January 2018


by Jessica Townsend


Morrigan Crow is cursed. Born on Eventide (the unluckiest day of the year), she's blamed for all local misfortunes—and, worst of all, she's doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.


But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and hunters, he whisks her to a secret, magical city called Nevermoor, where Morrigan must compete to win entrance into the esteemed Wundrous Society by competing in a series of increasingly difficult trials.


• Nevermoor spelling list
• Discussion group on Goodreads
• An interview with the author, Jessica Townsend
• Pinterest board with ideas for a magic-themed book club meeting
• 2018 Bee's Bookshelf Reading Challenge video


Purchase January's Selection

February 2018

The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices of the Titanic

by Allan Wolf

An ancient iceberg glides south, anticipating its fateful encounter... 

From Margaret ("the unsinkable Molly") Brown to the captain who went down with his ship; from the lookout and wireless men to a young boy in search of dragons and a gambler in search of marks, poet Allan Wolf offers a breathtaking, intimate glimpse at the lives behind the tragedy of the Titanic, told with clear-eyed compassion and astounding emotional power.


• The Watch That Ends the Night spelling list
• Discussion group in Goodreads
• Video message from the author, Allan Wolf
• Video message from the Bee team
• Pinterest board with ideas for a Titanic-themed book club meeting


Purchase February's Selection

March 2018

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel

adapted and illustrated by Hope Larsen

It was a dark and stormy night. Meg Murry, her younger brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger...


So begin the adventures of Meg, Charles Wallace and their friend Calvin O'Keefe as they journey through time and space in search of Meg's father. Experience Madeleine L'Engle's beloved story as told through Hope Larson's moving illustrations.


• A Wrinkle in Time spelling list
• A Wrinkle in Time graphic novel panel worksheet
• Discussion group on Goodreads
• An interview with the adapter and illustrator, Hope Larsen


Purchase March's Selection

April 2018

Save Me a Seat

by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

Joe and Ravi might be from very different places, but they're both stuck in the same place: SCHOOL.


Joe's lived in the same town all his life, and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own. Ravi's family just moved to America from India, and he's finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in. Joe and Ravi don't think they have anything in common—but soon find out they have a common enemy and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.


• Save Me a Seat spelling list
• Discussion group on Goodreads
• Video message from one of the authors, Sarah Weeks


Purchase April's Selection

May 2018

The Doublecross

by Jackson Pearce

Everyone in twelve-year-old Hale's family is a spy. They all work for the Sub Rosa Society, an elite organization that's so top-secret that new agents aren't recruited, they're born. His parents may be the ultimate spy team at SRS, but Hale isn't like them, and he struggles to pass the physical test that will allow him to be a field agent.


But when both his mother and father go missing on a secret mission, it's up to Hale to step up and save the day. With a hilarious and charismatic cast of characters, The Doublecross will have you furiously flipping pages (stealthily, of course) until the very end.


• The Doublecross Spelling List
• Discussion group on Goodreads
• Video message from the author, Jackson Pearce
• Pinterest board with ideas for a spy-themed book club meeting


Purchase May's Selection

June 2018

Chasing Space

by Leland Melvin

When the former Detroit Lion’s football career was cut short by an injury, Leland Melvin didn’t waste time mourning his broken dream. Instead, he found a new one—something that was completely out of this world.


In this inspiring memoir, you will get to learn about Leland's remarkable life story, from being drafted by the Detroit Lions to bravely orbiting our planet in the International Space Station to writing songs with will.i.am, working with Serena Williams, and starring in top-rated television shows like The Dog WhispererTop Chef and Child Genius.


• Chasing Space spelling list
• Discussion group in Goodreads
• Video message from the author, Leland Melvin
• Pinterest board with ideas for a space-themed book club meeting


Purchase June's Selection

July 2018


by Katherine Applegate

Trees can't tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories. . . 


Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"―people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with a crow named Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red's hollows, this wishtree watches over the neighborhood. You might say Red has seen it all. . .


• Wishtree Spelling List
• Discussion group in Goodreads
• Video message from the author, Katherine Applegate
• Pinterest board with ideas for creating your own Wishtree


Purchase July's Selection

August 2018

As Brave As You

by Jason Reynolds

Genie’s summer is full of surprises. The first is that he and his big brother, Ernie, are leaving Brooklyn for the very first time to spend the summer with their grandparents all the way in Virginia—in the country! The second surprise comes when Genie figures out that their grandfather is blind. Genie thinks Grandpop must be the bravest guy he’s ever known, but he starts to notice that his grandfather never leaves the house—as in never.


Over the course of the summer, Genie begins to realize that bravery means something different to everyone, and that being brave doesn't mean you can't be afraid.


• As Brave As You Spelling List
• Discussion group in Goodreads
• Video message from national finalist and Bookshelfer, Paul Hamrick
• Pinterest board with ideas for a summer fun-themed book club meeting


Purchase August's selection

September 2018

The Incredible Magic of Being

by Kathryn Erskine

Julian lives large, and his eternal optimism allows him to see infinite possibilities wherever he looks. But despite his optimism, he is anxious about his stressed family falling apart. If he can make his family focus on the magic in the universe, surely they'll appreciate life again.


An avid student of science, Julian understands that there is much about the universe that we don't yet know. Who is to say what's possible and what's not? See life as Julian does—through his beloved telescope—and open yourself up to the magic that is all around us.


• The Incredible Magic of Being Spelling List
• Discussion group in Goodreads
• Video message from the author, Kathryn Erskine
• Pinterest board with ideas for a Bee's Bookshelf book club meeting


Purchase September's selection

October 2018

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

by Dusti Bowling


Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.


Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined.

• Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus Spelling List
• Discussion group in Goodreads
• Video message from the author, Dusti Bowling
• Pinterest board with ideas for a Western-themed book club meeting


Purchase October's Selection

November 2018

The Language of Spells

by Garret Weyr

Grisha is a dragon in a world that's forgotten how to see him. Maggie is an unusual child who thinks she's perfectly ordinary. They're an unlikely duo—but magic, like friendship, is funny. And magic has chosen Grisha and Maggie to solve the darkest mystery in Vienna. Decades ago, when World War II broke out, someone decided that there were too many dragons for all of them to be free.


As they investigate, Grisha and Maggie ask the questions everyone's forgotten: Where have the missing dragons gone? And is there a way to save them?

• The Language of Spells Spelling List
• Discussion group in Goodreads
• Pinterest board with ideas for a book club meeting about dragons and spells set in Vienna!


Purchase November's Selection

December 2018

School Ship Tobermory

by Alexander McCall Smith


Ben and Fee MacTavish are twins who’ve been home schooled on a submarine. Now they’re heading to the School Ship Tobermory. This is no ordinary school—it’s a sailing ship where kids from around the world train to be sailors and learn about all things nautical.


When a film crew arrives on a nearby ship, the Albatross, Ben is one of the lucky kids chosen as a movie extra. But after a day’s filming, his suspicions are aroused. Are the director and crew really shooting a film? Or are they protecting a secret on the lower decks of the Albatross?


• School Ship Tobermory Spelling List
• Discussion group in Goodreads


Purchase December's selection


August 2017

Hook's Revenge

by Heidi Schulz

Jocelyn’s father is the infamous Captain Hook, and she wants nothing more than to follow in his footsteps to become one of the most feared pirates in the world. Unfortunately for Jocelyn, she lives with her grandfather, who has other ideas about how young ladies should behave. Jocelyn is sent to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb’s Finishing School for Young Ladies, where everything is frilly and pink and altogether terrible.


Jocelyn is looking for an adventure, any adventure, to sweep her away from school, so when a mysterious letter from her father arrives in the beak of a talking crow, she doesn’t hesitate to set off to Neverland on a quest. Jocelyn encounters cannibals, ticking crocodiles, untrained pirates, pesky fairies, and a certain lost boy who always shows up uninvited.


• Discussion group on Goodreads

• Video message from the author, Heidi Schulz

• Essay about words from the author

• Pinterest board with ideas for a pirate-themed book club meeting


Purchase August's Selection

September 2017

Fortunately, The Milk

by Neil Gaiman


Have you ever wished that a story could just have it all? Vampires, aliens, dinosaurs, pirates, and a jungle tribe? Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman includes all those and more. What starts as an ordinary tale about a father going out to buy some milk for his children’s cereal quickly dissolves into a wild adventure through time and space. We promise that as things grow odder and odder with every page turn, you’ll want to see this book through to the end in one sitting. Grab yourself a glass of milk (and maybe some cookies) and find a cozy spot—adventure awaits!


• Fortunately, The Milk spelling list
• Fortunately, The Milk word activity
• Discussion group on Goodreads
• Video message from the Bee team
• Pinterest board with ideas for an intergalactic book club meeting


Purchase September's Selection

October 2017

The List

By Patricia Forde

Which words mean the most to you? Letta is the only apprentice to the Wordsmith in a post-apocalyptic society called Ark, the last safe place on Earth. To ensure the survival of the human race, the rulers of Ark have limited the English language to a list of 500 words. It is Letta and the Wordsmith’s job to ensure the safekeeping of The List and to distribute words to Ark’s citizens. One day, the Wordsmith mysteriously disappears and the leaders of Ark ask Letta to shorten List to fewer and fewer words. Letta is suddenly faced with an impossible choice: sit idly by and watch language disappear altogether, or trust in a group of dangerous strangers who may be able to help her find freedom.


The List is an action-packed story that explores questions such as why do words matter, and would you risk everything for something you believe in?


• The List word game and rules
• Discussion group on Goodreads
• Video message from the author, Patricia Forde
• Video message from the Bee team
• My List Words video
• Pinterest board with ideas for a word-themed book club meeting


Purchase October's Selection

November 2017

The Secret Keepers

by Trenton Lee Stewart

Can you keep a secret? Reuben's life isn't picture-perfect, but he's happy living with his mom and exploring the streets of New Umbra every day, honing his spy skills and observing the habits of his neighbors. One day, Reuben stumbles upon an antique watch and a secret bigger than he ever could have imagined. Now he is on a dangerous adventure—full of curious characters, treacherous traps, and hairsbreadth escapes—as he races to solve the mystery before it is too late.


Join Reuben and his companions, Penny, Jack, and Mrs. Genevieve, as they attempt to outwit a sly villain called The Smoke and save their city from a terrible fate.

• The Secret Keepers spelling list
• The Secret Keepers word activity
• Discussion group on Goodreads
• Video message from national finalist and Bookshelfer Cal Alexander, Jr.
• Pinterest board with ideas for a spy-themed book club meeting


Purchase November's Selection

December 2017

The Magician's Elephant

By Kate DiCamillo

Believe the unbelievable. Peter is an orphan who desperately clings to the hope that his sister might still be alive, and that he might be able to find her. He dares to ask a fortuneteller the impossible, and she tells him to follow the elephant. Thus unfolds an adventure through the city of Baltese, connecting characters from all backgrounds and histories on an epic quest to uncover the secrets of their hearts and to find where it is they each belong.


• The Magician's Elephant spelling list
• Discussion group in Goodreads
• Video message from the author, Kate DiCamillo
• Pinterest board with ideas for an elephant-themed book club meeting


Purchase December's Selection