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Battle of the Books

What BoB Means to Paige Ysteboe

I have been a school librarian for twenty-two years and in all of that time, I have never felt up-to-date on children’s and young literature.  I read constantly, but I simply can’t keep up.  I received this year’s big book order when we got back from winter break.  I marked 222 books to read.  I do this every year and I never get all the books read.  I will never catch up – I’ve learned to live with that fact.

A couple of years ago I discovered SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books.  The first year I read all of the judges’ decisions and thought about how much fun it would have been if I had actually read the books.  But I was already so far behind on my reading list, how could I justify adding sixteen more books to it?

Last year’s list was revealed the week I had bookfair in the media center.  Two of the books were sitting at the fair and several others were already on my to-read list.  It occurred to me – here was a reading goal that was both attainable and satisfying when reached.  I had all sixteen books read before the end of February, guessed as to who would win each bracket, and then sat back and truly enjoyed the battles (I did pretty well in the first round, picking seven of the eight winners).  I read books that I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise and, to quote Karen Cushman, I was gobsmacked by The Ring of Solomon.  I bought several of the books for my media center and shared them with teachers and students.  I serve on the committee for North Carolina’s Battle of the Books and I was delighted when we chose One Crazy Summer to be in this year’s battle for North Carolina’s middle schools.  It seemed truly cruel to have to wait almost a year before getting to enjoy SLJ’s Battle again.

 It seemed truly cruel to have to wait almost a year before getting to enjoy SLJ’s Battle again.

I haunted the Battle website this past January, waiting for the next list to come out so that I could start getting the books and reading them.  So far I’ve read eleven of the sixteen and I should be in good shape to get them all read before the first battle begins. I’ve been gobsmacked by two of the titles, and have thoroughly enjoyed the others.  To be fair, there’s one title I’m dreading, but that’s because I tried reading it last spring and couldn’t get through it (I will this time).

The kids at school think I’m crazy (“you’re going to read that many books in a month?”), but that can only be a good thing.  I get to talk with them about some truly fine books and I get to pitch them to teachers. I have a great job.

Paige is in her 23rd year as a middle school media specialist and is Nationally Board Certified.  She’s served as the membership chair for the North Carolina School Library Media Association and is on the State Battle of the Books committee.


  1. It’s just a win-win situation, Paige! I love the way even reading the “losers” of the Battle is such a rewarding experience, too.

  2. Wow, North Caroline has it’s own Battle of the Books? Do tell?

  3. We’ve had battle for as along as I’ve been a school librarian. Sometime in the 90’s we started having regional competitions to go along with our school district competitions, and then we added a state level competition. I’m having my school competition yesterday and today, and am really proud of my kids and their commitment to reading the 27 books on our list each year.

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