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Battle of the Books

A Word (or Two or Three or More) from Our Commentator

I know many of you must be wondering how we chose the shortlist, so let me shed some light on that subject.  The three of us—Monica Edinger, Roxanne Feldman, and I— read widely this past year, exchanged e-mails throughout the fall, and came up with an eclectic, diverse list with a mix of popular and literary titles.  We hammered this out in early December (well before the ALA Youth Media Announcements), devised the bracketing strategy (books are matched up alphabetically by title, rather than randomly as was the case last year), and then handed it off to School Library Journal who recruited and assigned the judges.  By way of justification, here are some of the accolades each title has received to date.

CHARLES AND EMMA won the inaugural YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction.  It was also a National Book Award finalist, a Printz Honor book, and is a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist.  It received five starred reviews and made five best of the year lists.

CLAUDETTE COLVIN won the National Book Award.  It was also a Newbery Honor book, a Sibert Honor book, and a YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction finalist.  It received five starred reviews and made six best of the year lists.

THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE was a Newbery Honor book.  It also won the Josette Frank Award.  It received four starred reviews and made five best of the year lists.

FIRE won the YA Fantasy/Science Fiction Cybil.  It received five starred reviews and made four best of the year lists.

THE FROG SCIENTIST won the AAAS/Subaru/SB&F Middle Grade Science Book Award and the MG/YA Nonfiction Cybil.  It received four starred reviews and made one best of the year list.

THE LAST OLYMPIAN won the hearts of children everywhere.  It received two starred reviews and was a New York Times 2009 Notable Book.

LIPS TOUCH was a National Book Award finalist.  It received two starred reviews and made one best of the year list.

THE LOST CONSPIRACY is a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist.  It received five starred reviews and made three best of the year lists.

MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD won the YA Schneider Family Book Award.  It received five starred reviews and made five best of the year lists.

MARCHING FOR FREEDOM is a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist.  It received five starred reviews and made five best of the year lists.

PEACE, LOCOMOTION was an Odyssey Honor audiobook.  It received two starred reviews.

A SEASON OF GIFTS received five starred reviews and made three best of the year lists.

THE STORM IN THE BARN won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction.  It received five starred reviews and made four best of the year lists.

SWEETHEARTS OF RHYTHM received three starred reviews and made one best of the year list.

TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA won the Children’s Book Council of Australia Award for Older Readers, made the New York Times Best Illustrated Books, and is shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.  It received five starred reviews and made four best of the year lists.

WHEN YOU REACH ME won the Newbery Medal, was a Best Books for Young Adults Top Ten, and is shortlisted for the Andre Norton Award.  It received five starred reviews and made five best of the year lists.

Last year, we got two recurring questions.  First, some people questioned why certain books were paired together, as if there was an ulterior motive for doing so.  As I’ve mentioned it was completely random, and, yes, that resulted in some odd apples vs. oranges comparisons, but that is part and parcel of evaluating a field of books.  And second, some people questioned why we were heaping even more praise on books that didn’t need the extra attention while many other deserving books languished in obscurity.  The primary purpose of Battle of the Kids’ Books is entertainment rather than publicity, and while it does behoove us to include many books that people know and love, we do try to throw in a lesser known title or two (e.g. WAYS TO LIVE FOREVER last year, SWEETHEARTS OF RHYTHM this year).

Of course, we found it very difficult to leave some excellent titles off the list, but we are very happy with the ones that we included.  You are welcome to quibble with our choices, of course, and I invite you to do so in the comments below.

I’d also like you to consider which title above to vote for in the Undead Poll (opening tomorrow).  There’s a bit of strategy involved here.  Do you choose your absolute favorite—even if you think it’s a sure bet for the final round?  Or do you pick a beloved title that almost certainly will get ousted before then?  Choose wisely!

Comments

  1. Thanks for the clarifications Jonathan. You mentioned that SLJ recruited and assigned the judges. Do you have any insights into their assignment methodology? Jim Murphy judging the nonfiction showdown in the first round cannot be random.

  2. Well, now that I know how the bracketing was done, I’m glad my top two are faaaaaar away from each other alphabetically—I was afraid they’d be up against each other in the first round and thus something I loved would have to die early (though at least there’s the Zombie Book this year . . . brilliant idea!)

  3. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Yeah, the Jim Murphy assignment doesn’t strike me as very accidental either, but those books are (a) highly touted and (b) evenly matched so perhaps SLJ thought that Murphy could offer some particular insight as a nonfiction author.

    The other assignments don’t follow along similar lines. That is, neither Shannon Hale nor Megan Whalen Turner are judging LIPS TOUCH vs. THE LOST CONSPIRACY. Helen Frost is not judging SWEETHEARTS OF RHYTHM. We have four African American judges and five African American books (CLAUDETTE COLVIN, MARCHING FOR FREEDOM, THE FROG SCIENTIST, SWEETHEARTS OF RHYTHM, and PEACE, LOCOMOTION) and none of them were paired together.

    So the assignments strike me as very random–with the one exception . . .

  4. What is the RSS feed? I tried adding this to my Bloglines account, and bloglines accepted sljbattleofthebooks.com/feed but no posts are showing up.

    And obviously you are posting!

    I also suggest (because of all of us who do follow on readers!) that you make the RSS feed prominent on the main page.

    If it is already there, sorry, I didn’t see it & just ignore this comment.

  5. I use Google Reader, and all I did was copied the homepage URL (http://sljbattleofthebooks.com) into the little box that said “Add a new subscription.” Works for me!

    In terms of the matchups, to echo what I said yesterday… Julius Lester’s matchup is an absolute monster between two white-hot brilliant titles! Shaun Tan is a golden god… can we all agree on that?

  6. Yep, mine added the feed (which I had in my post) so it looks like its working, but continues to not show any posts associated with that feed.

  7. Battle Commander says:

    Thanks for asking about the RSS feed. We’ve added a link for it at the top.

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