We meet Akeelah, who lives with her mother and older brother, soon after the death of her father in a neighborhood shooting. Akeelah's mother is busy trying to make ends meet and doesn't have time for Akeelah's interest in spelling. Reggie is unemployed and tempted by a life of crime to provide for his family, which includes a new baby. A good student, Akeelah is reluctant to participate in the Bee because of the teasing she receives from her classmates, but her love for spelling, a special connection she shared with her dad, wins out. She trains with the curmudgeonly Dr. Larabee and, like all good teacher/student relationships, she teaches him as much as he teaches her. But to win at the national level Akeelah needs the help of her friends and everyone in her community. They all rally behind her, encourage her, and help her train for the Bee. Her success means success for all of them.
|my favorite moment of the Bee (photo by Jeff Wheeler)|
Akeelah and the Bee may not be an original story (there are countless variations of the underdog training for and winning at a big competition, and we've seen the odd and delightful quirkiness that is the Spelling Bee onstage before in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), but it's charmingly told and speaks to the power of family, community, education, and a common goal. It's a story worth sharing and is sure to encourage young people to follow their dreams, and maybe not-so-young people as well. Akeelah and the Bee continues through October 11.