Follow This Blog: RSS feed
A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Funtime Recap: The First Week of BoB

Ladies and gentlemen this marks the end of the first week of the Battle of the Kids’ Books.  The tournament where some of the best books of a previous year battle it out to determine the one best book of 2009 (video explanation here).  Remember when we looked at the brackets and thought to ourselves, "Aww.  Such a great year for books.  They’re all winners!"  We were younger then.  Before we tasted blood.

So!  Let’s do a funtime recap of BoB, week one. 

Match One
Judge: Jim Murphy
Books: Charles & Emma VS Claudette Colvin
Winner: Charles & Emma

Pretty much every decision this week was unexpected, and Mr. Murphy kicked it all off by choosing the dual biography over the single one.  I have read both books in this particular case and while I have nothing but respect for Claudette, the book I keep thinking about long after it was over was the one with the Darwinianisms.  Hoose is a fantastic writer too.  This was one of the fairer pairings, though.  Can you imagine what could have occurred if Claudette faced off against Marcelo or Fire?  Probably their fates wouldn’t have changed much from what happened anyway…

Funtime Recap Assessment: Me like decision.

Match Two
Judge: Nancy Farmer
Books: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate VS Fire
Winner: Calpurnia

Boy.  Folks just were not happy with the decision on this one.  Though folks love Calpurnia, the Fire community was up in arms.  And the comment section was riveting.  I was very impressed that no matter how upset people got they didn’t attack Ms. Farmer personally.  As for my p.o.v. I thought the decision was fine but the logic behind why she didn’t prefer Fire was shaky.  Still, she was clever enough to make it clear that this was just her own opinion, and you can’t argue with what a person feels.  I agree with the commentor that found it odd that Ms. Farmer was a perturbed by Fire‘s violence as she was, though.  Some of the scenes in Farmer’s House of the Scorpion haunt me to this day. 

Funtime Recap Assessment: Meh

Match Three
Judge: Candace Fleming
Books: The Frog Scientist VS The Last Olympian
Winner: The Last Olympian

No envy for Ms. Fleming on this one.  She gets extra points for beginning her recap by saying, "Here’s just about the only thing these two books have in common: both feature main characters that are good swimmers."  She later goes on to call The Frog Scientist "Tyrone Hayes and the last amphibian".  See, that’s why they hire writers to do these recaps.  Snappy wordplay!  There were a lot less comments on this particular post, indicating that the froggy fans and the Percy fans have nothing on the number of Fire fans out there. 

Funtime Recap Assessment: Double Meh, but there are advantages to Percy advancing . . .

Match Four

Judge: Helen Frost
Books: Lips Touch VS The Lost Conspiracy
Winner: The Lost Conspiracy

I don’t think I realized until this match ended just how invested I was in The Lost Conspiracy.  Of course I’ve been a Hardinge fan for years.  I find her books brilliant.  I mentioned earlier how Charles & Emma has stayed with me since reading it.  This is true, but the degree to which I still think about The Lost Conspiracy trumps all other books, hands down.  I dream about that book.  I have trouble not pondering it during my waking hours.  So it seems cruel that right off the bat it was paired with Lips Touch.  I didn’t read many YA novels in 2009 but I read that one.  I’ve often said that had I been 12 when Twilight came out, I would have been a fan.  That may be true, but had Lips Touch also come out, I like to think that I would have had the wherewithal to admit it was the better book by far.  That Lips Touch isn’t better known kills me.  And this could have been its chance to shine if ONLY it hadn’t gone up again Hardinge right from the start.  Two of my favorite authors.  What a blow.

Funtime Recap Assessment: Helen Frost made the right decision, but I don’t envy her the choice.

Match Five

Judge: Gary Schmidt
Books: Marcelo in the Real World VS Marching for Freedom
Winner: Marching for Freedom

It’s always a bit cruel when fiction goes against nonfiction.  In this particular case Mr. Schmidt just gave the most delicious assessment of each book.  You really feel that he’s had his heart torn out of his chest when he makes that final decision.  And who could blame him?  He was just forced to compare a complex novel to a real world story that was never really told before. 

Funtime Recap Assessment: Sob!  We love you, Gary!  There was no good decision in this case, so you did the next best thing.  You showed the two books off to their best advantage.  They’re better for it, we’re better for it, and the decision stands.

Which Means That . . .

In Matches 6-8 of the first round I suspect we may see the following . . .

Match Six
Judge: Cynthia Kadohata
Books: Peace, Locomotion VS A Season of Gifts
Winner: Peace, Locomotion

In a sense, pairing these two books against one another makes a lot of sense.  They’re both sequels or books in a series that have garnered their own fair share of awards over the years.  Kadohata is a historical fiction gal, so you would think that I’d put her vote in the Peck slot.  However, a lot of the love of his most recent book was based on nostalgia for the earlier stories in the Grandma Dowdel series.  If you walk into the book without having read the previous titles (and here I’m only speculating that Kadohata hasn’t read A Year Down Yonder or A Long Way from Chicago) I don’t know that you’d be blown away by this novel.  In contrast, you don’t have to have read Locomotion to understand Woodson’s latest, and what’s more the book is speaking about very timely, difficult issues.  I think Kadohata will have a special appreciation for that.

Match Seven
Judge: Anita Silvey
Books: The Storm in the Barn VS The Sweethearts of Rhythm
Winner:  The Sweethearts of Rhythm

Color me kooky, but my first clue that Ms. Silvey will shy away from Matt Phelan’s Scott O’Dell Award winner is the fact that I’ve never been able to detect in her a particular love of graphic novels.  This is not to say that I think she dislikes them.  I simply don’t think that they show up on her radar all that often.  Phelan’s novel is grounded in classic fantasy tropes, a fact that she may appreciate, but the fantastical realism of the book could quite conceivably throw her off.  Sweethearts of Rhythm, in contrast, is original but in a very standard way.  It’s poetry, history, and lively illustrations by a Caldecott Award winner.  I can see Ms. Silvey appreciating Nelson’s approach to history more than Phelan’s due to the format and the presentation.

Match Eight
Judge: Julius Lester
Books: Tales of Outer Suburbia VS When You Reach Me
Winner: When You Reach Me

But it’s hard.  It’s very hard.  If you had to make someone decide between these two books, it may as well be Mr. Lester.  Has he ever read a Shaun Tan before?  Maybe not.  He will probably take to the stories of isolation, and suburbia.  He will see the beauty in these stories.  He will also notice that not all the stories are equally good, and that some are stronger than others.  Maybe he’ll decide that When You Reach Me works better as a cohesive whole that the varieagated parts in Tan’s novel.  It seems unfair, but that’s where I can see him going with this.

And So . . .

That will mean that in Round Two we may see these outcomes:

Match One
Judge: M.T. Anderson
Books: Charles & Emma VS The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Winner: Charles & Emma

I find it very interesting indeed that the two Henry Holt evolution titles with silhouette covers are going head to head at last.  Consciously or unconsciously folks have been comparing these two books from the start, even though Charles & Emma is clearly teen/adult and Calpurnia is for the younger set.  Mr. Anderson may find himself befuddled by the immediate similarities, but after some consideration he’ll fall under the Charles & Emma sway.  You can’t help but love Calpurnia too, so he’ll sweat a little blood.  But not so much blood that he changes his mind.  He is, after all, better known as a teen writer than one for children for the most part.

Match Two
Judge: Angela Johnson
Books: The Last Olympian VS The Lost Conspiracy
Winner: The Lost Conspiracy

I fully intend to see The Lost Conspiracy dance a tarantella all over Percy Jackson’s spine.  It’s The Last Vs. The Lost and my vote goes for the latter.  Without question.  If she chooses Percy you will hear a howl of pain emanate from Harlem that day.

Match Three
Judge: Christopher Paul Curtis
Books: Marching for Freedom VS Peace, Locomotion
Winner: Marching for Freedom

Boy, now I’m just speculating for the sake of speculating.  But if PL does advance to this round then Mr. Curtis is gonna have one heckuva difficult choice on his hands.  Still, if Gary Schmidt’s eloquent words didn’t convince you that Partridge’s book was one in a million, I don’t know what will.  Woodson’s book is great, but I don’t think it will get much farther than this.

Match Four
Judge: Shannon Hale
Books: Sweethearts of Rhythm VS When You Reach Me
Winner: When You Reach Me

This makes sense to me.  Sweethearts of Rhythm is both historical fiction based on fact and poetry.  That’s two great tastes that taste great together.  When You Reach Me, on the other hand is historical fiction, realistic fiction, science fiction, and a mystery all rolled up into one book.  It’s hard to beat that kind of flexibility.  I’m afraid Nelson’s book won’t be able to.

I could speculate further, but I’ll save that for next Saturday, once I’ve seen where I’ve gone wrong (so that I can correct myself accordingly).

Gosh, this is fun!

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Fascinating, I also loved “the Lost Conspiracy”. Good vs. good makes such hard choices. Betsy, I know you said no countdown on the weekends. Then #11 will not be announced on the 25th, but on the 27th.

  2. OK, sorry, the 27th is also a Sat. #11 would be announced on Monday, 3/29.

  3. I’m the only one I know who was rather “Meh” about Marcelo, but Marching for Freedom is just about my favorite book of the year. I was so excited to see that it had won when I looked last night!

    I think Fire is very difficult to swallow for readers with a different worldview than Cashore. I know that’s what it was for me.

  4. To quote Barbie, math is hard. Good catch on the date. I’ve corrected accordingly.

  5. Thanks for fixing the date. I’ve been racking my limited brain trying to fit the 11th book on the 25th.

    I’m with you on The Lost Conspiracy. Fingers crossed.

    I’m mostly finished with Fire, and am enjoying it, but I think it would have been the easy choice. I was glad to see the world shaken up by Callie Vee.

  6. Genevieve says:

    I love Marcelo dearly – my favorite YA book last year, and one of my top five favorite books period from last year. But Marching For Freedom was also one of the five best books I read last year, so I can’t blame Gary Schmidt, and I empathized with his crying over having to choose between them.

    Voted for Marcelo in the Undead Poll, so I hope it becomes a zombie and meets When You Reach Me (fingers crossed) in the final round.

  7. All for Marching For Freedom over Marcelo-Gary Schmidt totally made the right choice. I’m happy with all the choices so far, much as I liked Fire I think Calpurnia is better of course I also feel Nancy Farmer can do no wrong.
    Looking forward to the coming rounds.