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Battle of the Books

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.


  1. Yes! Really looking forward to more discussion with you around the water cooler, Sam!

  2. Way to stretch the sports metaphor, Sam. And to explain the whole basketball thing to those of us who are intentionally ignorant. And I agree, let’s keep it to sixteen. Such a sweet number.

  3. Woohoo! Okay I’m officially ready to start now. (And yes I agree, 16 books is prefect. I only just managed to read all 16 for the first time. Almost. I sort of chose not to read one all the way through.)

  4. Linda Papajcik says

    Hmmm. Wondering if anyone who originated this creative, heady, derivative of March Madness and Newbery award rolled into one is familiar with an already well-established book competition FOR KIDS (it’s been around for decades) also called Battle of the Books … AND, B.O.B. for short? Me thinks not…..too bad the name of THIS delightful literary “jousting” doesn’t play up the brackets more and use a moniker suggesting such. The title becomes confusing since it is nearly identical to the original Battle of the Books. (Not familiar with it? Just google it, school districts and public libraries around the country have REAL [ooops, did I just say, ‘REAL?’] B.O.B. competitions.

  5. Battle Commander says

    Hi Linda,

    The name was coined by SLJ and I don’t think they did know of the kids’ version at the time. Yes, it can be confusing, but hopefully two types of children book battles can exist in this world!

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