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Battle of the Books

Commentator Jonathan Has Some Questions

If you followed the Heavy Medal blog, you’ll already know which two books are my favorites here—A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS and SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD—and since they are in separate halves of the bracket it’s entirely possible for them to meet in the finals! But I hate the fact that SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD and THE RING OF SOLOMON meet in the first round, making that the worst first round pairing of the whole tournament, followed closely by AS EASY AS FALLING OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH and THE CARDTURNER.

The Newbery Medal winner has been upset in the first round the past couple years, and while we don’t have MOON OVER MANIFEST in the tournament, I’m very curious to see how ONE CRAZY SUMMER, our lone Newbery book, will fare. I think it could easily win the Undead Poll; it also goes up against a completely different kind of book in the first round, THE ODYSSEY, making me think we are once again at the mercy of the judge’s whim. I’m also very curious to see how the other graphic novel, HEREVILLE, will hold up against KEEPER.

But back to the Newbery Medal winner for a moment since there was a bit of discussion in the comments recently about its absence here. I do agree with Roxanne and Monica that, with it being so hard to narrow our choices down to just sixteen titles, it would be very difficult to reserve spots for certain books. I also agree that we don’t necessarily need to validate the choices of other award committees. On the other hand, I see the primary value of Battle of the Kids’ Books as entertainment, sometimes illuminating and provocative, yes, sometimes highlighting unsung books, yes, but ultimately entertainment—and thus I do want to see the best of the best go head-to-head.

So, here are two questions for your consideration. First, which first round match-up is the least pleasant for you (i.e. the match that pits the two books that are most deserving of advancing farther in the tournament)? And second, what is the primary value of Battle of the Kids’ Books for you? Is it purely entertainment? Is it instructive? Is it motivational for children and teenagers? Or strictly for an adult audience?

— Commentator Jonathan Hunt


  1. Sorry to be so dense, but where are the brackets posted? I tried working them out for myself and failed miserably.

    As to the primary value of the BoB to me–entertainment on a par with hanging out with friends and talking books (which is probably my favorite thing to do anyway.) Also, the final kick I need to read some of the best books I missed from the previous year.

  2. The primary value for me is entertainment. And as Kara said, this gets me familiar with the books I missed from the previous year.

    I enjoy debating with friends and coworkers about which book should win (Go, The Cardturner!) and which book is most likely to come back in the Undead Poll.

    I’m not sure how motivational it is for teens, though I know several who will read anything their favorite author posts online- which might lead them here. I think the Undead Poll may also be attractive to teenagers.

    As far as the brackets go, I will be very disappointed if The Cardturner loses the first round to As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth, but that’s just because I’m eager for The Cardturner to win.

  3. Battle Commander says

    We haven’t posted the brackets yet, but will hopefully later today (sans judges — they will be announced in a couple of weeks). Basically the brackets are the contenders in ABC order. If that makes no sense, we’ll have a nifty graphic up soon!

  4. I enjoy seeing how people I admire think about books. What’s important to MT Anderson? What’s important to Lois Lowry? I’ll eat these words if my horse loses in the first round, but I think that having the decision rest on the whim of a single judge is the best part of the contest.

  5. For me, the primary value is entertainment, but also finding out about great books to read. I didn’t read The Hunger Games until after I’d heard judges in every round analyze why it was so great.

    Part of the high value of the entertainment it offers is, like Megan Whalen Turner said (oops – am I blowing your cover?), hearing accomplished writers analyze good books. They are distinguished writers themselves, and their critiques tend to be examples of great writing, and well worth reading. They tend to be good at articulating what is important to them in reading a book.

    As for the worst match-up, it turns out that like last year, most of the books I’ve read are going up against books I haven’t read. The two exceptions are CONSPIRACY OF KINGS vs. COUNTDOWN (where I have no qualms about wanting CONSPIRACY to win) and SUGAR vs. THE RING OF SOLOMON. Like you, Jonathan, that one’s a toughie for me, because both deserve to go on to the next round.

  6. Battle Commander says

    For those asking, the brackets are here:

  7. I love this… First, it helps me build excitement for the books with students and spread the good word about good books. Also, I usually have one to root for and so my enthusiasm is contagious (in a good way). And, I love the judging and reading what authors I admire have to say. Thank you for this… We love it!

  8. Ah–thanks for the Brackets! So far, none of the books I’ve read are going head-to-head, so no tough decisions to make. Hoping that changes, though, as I get a few more titles under my belt.

  9. Oh, definitely the toughest for me here is my beloved Hereville going head-to-head with my equally beloved Keeper. Of all the pairings, this is the one I pity the poor judge for the most.

  10. There are three brackets that will break my heart once the first whack of the judge’s gavel falls. HEREVILLE’s presence on the list tickled me more than any other. But she has to face off against KEEPER, are you kidding me? I assume the judge there will need to recover with a night watching SOPHIE’S CHOICE.

    The other two heartbreakers are tragically grouped together in first quartet. There will be much innocent bloodshed as four of my favorites are winnowed down to one. AS EASY AS FALLING and CARDTURNER is such an equitable match. My heart gives the slight edge to Ry over Alton. But the true brutality will come when COUTNDOWN, one of my favorite books of last year, goes up against my favorite series of all time. (And all I can say to mtw is that I hope you are spending time with Eugenides, and not getting too distracted watching this horse race. Some of your readers are less than patient while you weave your plots of perfection.)

    As to the question of why I tune in? One answer would be, I don’t care for sports, but I love competition. A more genuine reason is that I pretty much have a one- track mind and it is hard to find people in the real world who are willing to discuss ad nauseam the merits of M.T Anderson over Hunger Games, or Non-fiction over Fiction.

    So far I haven’t been too successful in drawing my students into the fray. I’ve given some thought of setting up something like the BOTB school wide, but so far it has only been a thought.

    The real enjoyment for me is the write-ups by the judges. Like Eric I will bemoan the absence of M.T. Anderson this year. His analysis of Charles and Emma last year should have had continuing education credit attached. And for pure entertainment I’ve gone back several times to read Lois Lowry’s Kahuna judgment in the first BOTB (it all came down to an eggroll), along with Anderson’s and Suzanne Collin’s comments. Collin’s line about the Speak ‘n Spell in the woods is priceless.

  11. I really like hearing what the judges have to say–fine minds describing great books in fresh juxtaposition. As for the match-ups, I’m a little worried about The Odyssey going up against One Crazy Summer. They have such different qualities!

  12. I’m lucky this year that none of my favorites are paired in the first round. My heart will survive for at least a week and a 1/2! The second round, if my guesses pan out, is where I will fall apart.

    Why do I follow? I LOVE BOOKS! I discovered this last year and thought I’d died and gone to heaven! A place where people are not only discussing books but placing bets on which is better and then reading the discussions among some of my favorite authors AND other book aficionados? I could not stop talking, reading, writing and discussing this tournament. To the chagrin of many of my students.

    I have not figured out how to use this with students yet because it moves to fast. I would love to have groups of students in the places of the judges and then Skype the merits/de-merits of each book but the logistics are pretty much impossible unless I keep them away from the site. This year they have more of an interest since we did a Mock Newbery club. But the timing…hmmm

    So I visit for entertainment, for education, to see how well I’m keeping up with the MG/YA world, etc.

  13. Battle Commander says

    Reading all of the reasons that you so faithfully follow the Battle warms my heart! We do this for exactly the same reasons: I love the arguing back and forth to pick the final 16 (for months.) I enjoy thinking through the choices and attempting for a balance of different genres and age ranges. I especially revel in receiving and reading the judges’ thoughtful analysis and am so happy to know that you all feel that extra energizing charges reading and re-reading some of the amazing critical thoughts by the best children’s and YA writers out there!

    (the Roxanne-half of the Battle Commander)

  14. Purely Adult Entertainment. I so appreciate the perfect cocktail of seriousness and silliness. This is what makes BoB unique. Never change!

    TALE DARK AND GRIMM and THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE KKK are my heartbreak first bracket. I’m extremely fond of DARK AND GRIMM even though it didn’t make our cut at Heavy Medal…I was so pleased to see it on the list here where I think its strengths might overcome its weaknesses. KKK was my heartbreak at the ALA Youth Media Awards….not that it didn’t have a great year and do well with the YALSA nonfiction finalist medal, but…

  15. A TALE DARK AND GRIMM is my sleeper in this event. I think it could do some serious damage . . . we’ll see how much I know though!

  16. Karen Maurer says

    Which “The Odyssey” has made the brackets?

  17. Battle Commander says

    Gareth Hinds’ THE ODYSSEY is the contender. (All the contenders along with their authors are in this post:

  18. I value the battle of the kid’s books for a few reasons. I found Lost by Hardinge last year because the title kept winning. This is bringing books to my life that I haven’t had time for (for various reasons). Secondly, I love the author judges. It’s wonderful getting to know them in a different venue. I value their writer’s eye in judging these books… as a librarian and reader I know what I like in books, being exposed to an author’s POV is fascinating to me. Thirdly, it’s entertaining. For me, this is March Madness!

    I don’t really have an opinion about the brackets this year. Alpha order seems as good a way to present the books as any I can think of. YAY for SLJ’s Battle of the Books!

  19. Battle Commander says

    FYI, the schedule is now up on the sidebar.

  20. Pulling out the old crystal ball:

    As Easy as Falling off the Face of the Earth trumps The Cardturner.

    A Conspiracy of Kings blows up Countdown.

    The Dreamer floats above Barbie.

    We keep the Keeper over Hereville (and gone).

    It angered the gods to pit the Odyssey against One Crazy fine book.

    Ring of Solomon runs rings around Sugar.

    The KKK pulls the wool over Tales Dark and Grim.

    Will Grayson fights twice as hard to empty Trash.

    A Conspiracy of Kings prevails in the next round. We continue to keep Keeper. One Crazy Summer easily wins too. The KKK also triumphs. In the finals we will have One Crazy battle between One Crazy Summer and A Conspiracy of Kings. The judging will be insanely difficult. Conspiracy theory charges will be leveled, but One Crazy Summer will be the Big Kahuna choice.

    The Crystal Ball has spoken! (ignore that crack)

  21. I look forward to BoB every year. I have found many great books to add to our collection at work based on the reviews. The pairing of Keeper and Hereville is going to be the hardest one for me to watch. Oh well, no matter what, it is always entertaining!

  22. Battle Commander says

    Ed, we absolutely love your predictions and how you so wittily lay out each match here.

  23. I love the Battle of the Books each year, it introduces me to many books I have yet to read, especially for younger students. The judges opinions are always so interesting. The one problem is that my pile of books to read keeps getting bigger after this.

    Last year, my student aides kept wondering what was distracting me every day while I was keeping up with the Battle, and they decided to have a school wide BOB for School Library month. They each chose their 2 favorite books, and I added my 2 favorites. (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban vs. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in the first round!). The student body voted for their favorites each week. It was no surprise when The Hunger Games won, but my student aides were sure into it. It was great to see students talking about the relative merits of each book over the other, although they were no where near as entertaining and critical as your judges!

    As for this year’s contenders, I have to admit I’m a Conspiracy of Kings lover as well. I haven’t read Countdown yet so I can’t accurately judge that battle. I can’t wait for the fun to start!


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