How Do You Spell Unfair? MacNolia Cox and the National Spelling Bee
By Carole Boston Weatherford; illustrated by Frank Morrison
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema
“MacNolia Cox was no ordinary kid. Her idea of fun was reading the dictionary.” So begins author Carole Boston Weatherford’s gripping true account of how a Black eighth grader from Akron, Ohio, won her school’s spelling bee and advanced to a citywide bee in 1936. In an event attended by 3,000 onlookers, Cox faced 50 of the city’s greatest spellers and won, the first Black student to do so.
Illustrator Frank Morrison’s spectacularly expressive artwork captures Cox’s single-minded devotion to honing her God-given talent and seeking her place in the world despite discrimination. Christian parents and caregivers would do well to share this book with children and talk about God’s love for all people and God’s desire that all should flourish. (Candlewick)
Reviewed by Daniel Jung
Reality, starring Sydney Sweeney as Reality Winner (her real name) is a reenactment of real life that makes you feel as if you’re watching a one-act play.
The movie’s dialogue is taken directly from FBI transcripts of its interrogation of Winner, a United States intelligence worker whom the FBI suspected of stealing National Security Agency documents about Russia’s interference with the 2016 presidential election and leaking them to the media.
As a preacher who tells stories about Jesus Christ from four different accounts of his life, this movie heightens my appreciation for the “screenplay” choices made by each of the gospel writers. Reality is proof that tales of espionage and treason can be told subtly and still contain as much intrigue as high-octane depictions. (Max; rated TV-MA for infrequent profanity)
The Heaven &Earth Grocery Store
By James McBride
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema
In 1972, construction workers at a new housing development discover a human skeleton.
Forty-seven years earlier, in a Pennsylvania neighborhood where Black and Jewish people live shoulder to shoulder sharing their miseries, joys, and secrets, the community finds its center in the Heaven &Earth Grocery Store, run by a Jewish couple.
When a shocking incident occurs in the store, lives are forever altered.
Author James McBride’s novel, which includes some coarse language, sexual innuendo, and violence, is a gripping page-turner replete with expertly drawn characters. Despite dealing with harsh realities, it ends on a note of satisfied justice and renewal in a place where the heavenly vision of “the land where the lame walked and the blind could see” is a solid hope. (Riverhead Books)
Hope Ain’t a Hustle: Pastor Irwyn Ince assures us in this exploration of the book of Hebrews that not only do we have hope, but hope cannot disappoint us because it is validated by God himself. Foreword by Christina Edmonson. (Feb. 6, IVP)
Season 3 Drops: The acclaimed comedy series Abbott Elementary follows a group of dedicated teachers brought together in one of the worst public schools in the country. Starring Quinta Brunson and Sheryl Lee Ralph. (Feb. 7, ABC)
God and Country: A new documentary movie looks at the implications of Christian Nationalism in the U.S. and how it distorts not only the constitutional republic, but Christianity itself. What happens when a faith built on love, sacrifice, and forgiveness grows political tentacles, conflating power, money, and belief into hypernationalism? (Feb. 16, in theaters with limited release)
Clashing Kingdoms, Rival Rulers: For the first time, a full season of The Chosen, a streaming TV show, will be released exclusively in theaters. Season 4 promises to deliver where last season’s incredible walking-on-water finale left off. (In theaters Feb. 1, Fathom Events)