Maguire does a great job making this world understandable and interesting. I came away from it incredibly impressed with these overachieving tweens: in addition to being national competitors in spelling, most of them play an instrument, excel at a sport, and/or compete in other areas such as chess, math or geography. It almost makes one hopeful for the future. Almost.
Of course, the ability to spell things like "ookinete" or "rorqual," as jaw-droppingly impressive as it is in a child of twelve or thirteen (or even a college professor), isn't a reliable indicator of an expansive and utile vocabulary. Neither is it a skill that comes in handy in the adult world, whereas actually knowing the definitions of words always will be. So while I do admire the Scripps competitors, and understand the broad attractions of a spelling bee --- I do kind of wish there was an equally influential vocabulary bee. Quick! Define "flocculent!"