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Battle of the Books

What BoB Means to DaNae Leu

Football enthusiasts get the Super Bowl. Horse Racing enthusiasts get the Derby. Reality TV enthusiasts get roses, snuffed torches, and temper tantrums. What do children’s lit enthusiasts get? We get the knockdown, drag-out of ALA in January.

Oops, no, that is not what I meant. (Because, as everyone knows, when it comes to the revered ALSC and YALSA awards, all the hair-pulling, carnage, and temper tantrums are conducted behind closed doors.)

We, of course, get the heart-thumping exhilaration of SLJ’s Battle of the Kids Books. Where a dizzying array of books, meant for our young, come up against each other and the judgment of an equally dizzying array of authors. It is the place where a woman of mature years can validate all the time she spends reading books where the protagonists have an average age of eleven. BoB is, at the very least, a gift to those of us who, in the murk of late winter, suffer from post-Newbery depression. It is a place we can proudly champion favorites withoutthe encumbrance of criteria.

This is where the educated and uneducated alike can come for an MFA level analysis on the craft of literature.

Honestly, with insights given by the likes of Laura Amy Schlitz and M.T. Anderson I wanted to demand college credit. I could practically feel the elbow patches appear on my jacket. For the most part the judges give a comprehensive and thoroughly unbiased scrutiny of their contenders. Unless of course it’s Lois Lowry, then it’s all about vengeance, payola and fortune cookies.

This is also where I personally come to pad out my middle-grade-myopia-novel-reading. I have wicked voices in my head that say reading graphic novels and non-fiction are drudgery. Thanks to BoB I get to laugh in the face of those voices for a short period at least.  And although YA reading is far from drudgery it does feel decadent, as those I serve in my library leave me at the age of twelve.  So, BoB also offers a chance to indulge in forbidden fruit. I’ve never been disappointed by BoB imposed reading. In fact it has led me to some real gems from across the sea that would have missed but for BoB:  Nation, Here Lies Arthur, and last year’s love, Trash (which, to date, I have put into the hands of about 700 kids).

And last, and possibly least, it gives those of us who love competition, but find no interest in sporting events, a chance to dress up in face paint and wave big foam fingers.  A chance to revel in the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. We get to shake our pompoms when our favorites conquer and wallow in despair when our darlings are cast aside.

So what, you ask, will I be shaking my pompoms for this year?  Well, I still have a bit of reading to do before I make final judgment.  But for now I’m off to shop for a new hat.  Does anyone know where I might find a milliner who could design a hat with a yew tree growing out of a paper bag?

By the light of day DaNae Leu works as a librarian in a K-6 school in Utah.  She strives to convince the eight hundred plus students she holds captive that the best course of action to improve their quality of life, future earning potential, attractiveness to the opposite sex, and their complexion is to read as many books as possible.  She spends her secret life combing the web for conversations devoted to Children’s Literature, where she is known to talk incessantly, if not intelligently, about what her psychologist husband likes to refer to as her “special focus.” She also satisfies this craving by blogging at The Librariest.


  1. “It is the place where a woman of mature years can validate all the time she spends reading books where the protagonists have an average age of eleven.”

    Haha. Perfect.

  2. I love it, DaNae! “We can proudly champion favorites without the encumbrance of criteria.” Yes! “I could practically feel the elbow patches appear on my jacket.” Go, BoB University!

  3. Thanks Sondy and Brandy. But Battle Commanders, if I’d known you were planning to link to my blog I might have fought through the cobwebs and left a note. I’m afraid it’s about to be removed from my custody due to neglect..

  4. It is a place where the librarianical mania for alphabetical order reaches the apex of arbitrary! I like how the non- apples-to-apples competition makes you look at each book from a new angle. (I’m shaking one pompom for Amelia and the other for Jack!)

  5. Sam Bloom says

    This is so awesome – and by the way, I think we should all get CEUs, too!

  6. The hat! The HAT! Please when you find it, I want one, too.

  7. DaNae, that was great!

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