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Battle of the Books

Our 2012 Contenders!

The Battle Commander and the Commentator read furiously throughout 2011, reread, looked at what others were admiring, read more, argued, reread, agreed, disagreed, read some more, and by early December (in order to give time for our SLJ man-behind-the-curtain to begin recruiting judges) came up with our contenders. Then we had to keep it a secret from all of you for weeks and weeks!  So here we are mighty chuffed (using last year’s winner’s lovely term) at last to be announcing this year’s list. (The brackets can be viewed here.)

AMELIA LOST by Candace Fleming

ANYA’S GHOST by Vera Brosgol


BOOTLEG by Karen Blumenthal

THE CHESHIRE CHEESE CAT by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright

CHIME by Franny Billingsley





HEART AND SOUL by Kadir Nelson



A MONSTER CALLS  by Patrick Ness

OKAY FOR NOW by Gary Schmidt

WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick


  1. What an exciting thing to read in the wee hours of February!

  2. Whoa, I need to get reading. I haven’t read 7 of these. (I have Dead End in Norvelt in the stack of books on my nightstand so I’ll knock that one out this week.)

    I am so excited The Cheshire Cheese Cat is on this list!!!!!

  3. Sara Ralph says

    Guess I’m obligated to try Chime again. I failed to get into it the first time I tried to read it. I reserved 5 from this list today and bought two others. I guess my February reading list is already set!

  4. Such a terrific lineup! I can’t wait to read the judge’s writeups, which are always so thoughtful.

    Especially glad to see The Grand Plan to Fix Everything here!

  5. Woot! Can’t wait to see what happens…

  6. I love this idea! Can’t believe I haven’t seen this before. I’m very excited to read these books and follow along. Thanks so much!

  7. Let the good times roll. I have four books to read. BoB is my Graphic Novel, YA and non-fiction motivator.

    Not sure who to champion. For Newbery I was all about Ness and Schmidt. And since they were snubbed logic would demand they get my love. I better see if Taylor, Peet, Brosgol, or Blumenthal can supplant my affection, otherwise my mantra will be:

    “Okay for Monsters!”

  8. Battle Commander says

    Welcome (back,) one and all, old and new BoB followers! We here, behind the curtain, peeking out at the crowd, are excited about your enthusiasm! Yes. Buy, Borrow, Loan, Talk, Read, Agree and Disagree! Let the momentum build and let the world know! Please spread the word and get everyone reading these deserving books — be they recent award winners or quietly “under the radar” gems! You will see, once you read them all, why they all belong here!

  9. So will the Newbery winner be out after the first round again? Then maybe we would have a contest of Daughter of Smoke and Bone vs. Chime! My favorite thing about this is that it gives everyone a chance to analyze and discuss the books that didn’t win an award, but that we still love.

  10. Funny, Brandy — I was just thinking, Super! I’ve read 9 of the books this year! When you said, “I’ve got to read 7 books!”

    The cool part is that most of the 7 are ones I’d already meant to read. For example, I already have Dead End in Norvelt on hold (of course!). I got copies of The Grand Plan to Fix Everything and Bootleg at ALA, and I was already going to read Between Shades of Gray and Inside Out & Back Again because of their Honors (Morris and Newbery and of course National Book Award). Life: An Exploded Diagram, I’d really meant to read and now I have an excuse. That leaves one that I hadn’t wanted to read, Anya’s Ghost (which I had looked over) — but you should always read one book you don’t want to read, right?

    The really hard part will be deciding which book I’m rooting for. I was all about Okay For Now for the Newbery, but I never seriously pitted it against my Printz hopefuls — Scorpio Races, Chime, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Chime is so close to Daughter of Smoke and Bone in the brackets! I would have a hard time deciding between the two. For the Printz, my favorite was Scorpio Races, but I thought Chime had the better chance and that Daughter would probably get slighted for being Part One. In this? It’s going to be very interesting to see what the judges decide, with Daughter up against the Newbery winner in the first round. It’s also interesting to have Wonderstruck in a competition where words AND pictures together can definitely be considered.

    And so the fun begins! The speculation! The discussion! I’m looking forward to it!

  11. Man, those brackets can be heartbreakers! “Life: An Exploded Diagram” was easily the best book of any type I read in 2011 (ok, actually it’s up against Ondaatje’s “The Cat’s Table), and was one of my guilty pleasures during all my Mock Newbering. Harsh to pit it against the Ness!

    So: do you guys ever jimmy your list once you see the brackets? Aren’t you tempted to switch in a also-ran with an earlier-in-the-alphabet title to bump them around?….

  12. Jonathan Hunt says

    Yes, it’s always tempting to change things around once we’ve seen the brackets. But now that I’ve stomached CHARLES AND EMMA vs. CLAUDETTE COLVIN and THE LINCOLNS vs. NATION and THE RING OF SOLOMON vs. SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD in the first round, I think I can take anything!

  13. Awesome list!! Need to get my hands on LIFE and DRAWING FROM MEMORY. So pleased to see BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY here- such a worthy and heart wrenching story.

  14. Sondy-I guess that did sound a little glass-half-empty of me. I should be thinking, “I read 9 already!” since that was further than I was last year.

    The brackets are killing me too, The Cheshire Cheese Cat vs. Chime especially.

  15. LIFE! LIFE! LIFE! I’m so, so, SO excited you included this amazing book – I’ll be pulling for that one all the way!

  16. I’m pretty happy about the brackets–I can pick a clear favorite to go on to round 2 in all but the first set. I’m definitely pulling for THE CHESHIRE CHEESE CAT, THE GRAND PLAN, and LIFE–but maybe that’s because they were all on my list for ALA YMA and came out empty-handed. Thank goodness for second chances!

  17. I actually turned on my iPad at 4 am to see if the brackets were posted yet. I have a lot of reading to do before March, but I’m really excited about many of the titles. There’s one title that I tried to struggle through last year but could not force myself to read — I guess I’ll try again and see if I like it better this time.

  18. Battle Commander says

    Nina, it is terribly tempting to want to juggle the brackets, but fairness always wins out:)

  19. Thank God, this is about to begin. This is one of the most exciting times of my whole year.

  20. Boy, do I have some reading to do! This is one of my favorite KidLit book events of the year.

  21. Great to see the list and to have goal dates to get them read by. What fun!

  22. Hmmmm, still have a bit of reading to do. But A Monster Calls is my current number one.


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