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What BoB Means to Sam Bloom
An Ode to BoB
I don’t know about all of you, but I start to get the blahs after the YMAs are announced at ALA Midwinter. The excited buzz of the awards season pretty much vanishes into thin air, and February with all its dreariness soon descends upon Cincinnati. Thankfully, some enterprising folks – our friends Monica, Roxanne and Jonathan – created Battles of the Kids’ Books (BoB for short) a few years back as a way to cure us of our collective February funk. Okay, so they may have had other reasons, but no matter the motivations of our fearsome threesome, the bottom line is this: BoB rules.
This year, our heroic trio (in case you’re wondering, Monica+Roxanne=the Battle Commander, and Jonathan is the Commentator) has really come through in the clutch with some great new twists. First and foremost, by drawing out the announcements of the judges ever… so… slowly, they have raised the anticipation level higher than ever before. It’s a nice touch, kind of like the book version of Selection Sunday (the day that the brackets for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament go public) with the added bonus that we get to celebrate a different author every day.
On the subject of judges, I was looking through some old BoB decisions the other day just to read those gorgeous summaries. As I read I was struck by the consistently amazing quality of the BoB judges. I was going to attempt a statistical rundown… as in, the BoB judges through the years have won x Newbery Medals, y Printz honors, etc…. but the sheer number of awards made this too daunting a task. So I’ll just list a few to give you a taste: Lois Lowry, Megan Whalen Turner, Katherine Paterson, Richard Peck, John Green, Christopher Paul Curtis, Jon Scieszka, and on and on and on! (Incidentally, I wonder if Mr. Scieszka would be okay with the moniker “Ambassador S,” kind of like hoops fans refer to legendary Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski as “Coach K.”) Anyway, what a treat to be able to witness these deities of young people’s literature reduced to fanboy/girl puddles of squealing ectoplasm, riddled with indecision over two or three wonderful children’s books.
Here’s what really counts:
our books are awesome, and the judges are peerless.
I’ve made some allusions to college basketball here, because (a) I’m a big fan, and (b) BoB usually starts right as the NCAA Tournament gets underway. Plus, there’s a bracket for BoB, just as there is for March Madness. (A note to the BoB powers that be: even though the NCAAs are now up to 68 teams, please don’t ever change. Sixteen books are a perfect total!) Now, our Battle may get less TV coverage and/or ad dollars than “their Madness,” and I assume none of our judges can run the pick and roll, but these things aren’t really important. Here’s what really counts: our books are awesome, and the judges are peerless. Come on, who would you rather hang out with on a March afternoon – Dick Vitale or this year’s Big Kahuna judge and creator of the Bartimaeus series, Jonathan Stroud?
No serious discussion of BoB is complete without mentioning the blog’s superfans, of which I proudly count myself a member. We came, we saw, we commented… and we’ll continue to do so as long as BoB exists. The comments section is the virtual water cooler around which we stand in the aftermath of each judge’s decision; arguing, discussing, commiserating and, as often is the case for me personally, kvetching. Thanks to all of you for the stimulating conversation!
Presently we find ourselves on the brink of what will surely be another memorable BoB, and may the best book win. I think I speak for many in the kidlitosphere when I thank Monica, Roxanne, and Jonathan for continuing to bring us this wonderful and worthwhile event. In BoB we trust!
Sam Bloom is a children’s librarian at the Groesbeck Branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Formerly an elementary school teacher in Indianapolis, Sam misses reading aloud to his 2nd grade classes (incidentally, his favorite read-aloud of all time is John Reynolds Gardiner’s Stone Fox), but doesn’t miss grading papers.
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