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Battle of the Books

The Big Kahuna Match: Between Shades of Gray vs Life: An Exploded Diagram vs Okay for Now

Okay for Now
by Gary D. Schmidt
Life: An Exploded Diagram
by Mal Peet
Between Shades of Gray
by Ruta Sepetys

Judged by
Jonathan Stroud

When those fine people at School Library Journal asked me to judge the conclusion of this year’s Battle of the Kids’ Books, I knew at once it was a great honour. What I didn’t know, exactly, was what a “Big Kahuna” actually was. To me it conjured an image of a patriarchal sort of cove, wearing an impressive white beard, a set of mercifully long robes and a pair of leather sandals. Probably sitting resplendent on some kind of throne. Well, I did the best I could. The beard is false, the robes are itchy, and instead of a throne I’ve got a fold-up picnic chair, but that’s all incidental. What matters is what I’ve been reading. Three superb books, the hard-won finalists of a magnificent competition.

Here’s something I discovered right off. It doesn’t matter how big your beard is, sitting in judgement is a tricky job.

Or at least it is when each of the books is so individually excellent and tonally distinctive. And when their subject matter is so apparently disparate: love and sex in the shadow of the Cuban Missile Crisis; enduring the unimaginable horrors of Stalinist persecutions; the life of a kid growing up in Vietnam-era small-town America. How do you adjudicate something like that?

Well, for a start you look for parallels, and before long you notice that this year’s competition has thrown up a couple of definite themes. The first, clearly, is how big stuff, in the shape of global events, plays out upon our little lives. We’re talking about the fragility of the individual, the ease with which we might be crushed or tossed aside. We’re also talking about our response to that knowledge; and, thrillingly, each one of our finalists stands up like a Tiananmen Square protester before the oncoming tank of history, eyes it straight down the barrel and, while acknowledging its brutal strength, still finds cause for hope.

Where does that hope reside? In the redemptive power of art.

Three books, three protagonists. And each one of our heroes finds the act of drawing to be the crucial means of self-expression and self definition. It’s both a defense against the world, and a way of engaging with it. A window and a shield. It helps them transcend the limitations of their lives and, if not actually escape, then at the very least endure.

First up: Mal Peet’s Life: An Exploded Diagram. Reading this, I couldn’t help but marvel that we Brits ever manage to procreate at all. We’re in the dour, phlegmatic flatlands of Norfolk, in the grim, grey years following the Second World War. It’s all rationing, resentment, religious mania, sexual repression. Luckily our guide, Clem Ackroyd, has an eye for the telling detail that renders everything bright like crystal. He ought to. His favourite painter is Juan Sánchez Cotán, whose still lives are so naturalistic they acquire supernatural beauty. Fruit and vegetables sit on a ledge; behind is blackness. Clem observes that “those humble and edible objects, have their backs to that void. They bathe in the brevity of light, casting their modest shadows onto the stone. They say, they insist, that they briefly exist… ‘Look how commonplace and how beautiful we are.'”

This principle informs the book, which is full of iridescent imagery, bright words scattered about like seeds, illuminating the shabby and numinous alike. “Washing blew on the line… her mother’s bloomers ballooned by the wind, their elasticated leg holes pouting.” “Sun, in beams as clearly defined as searchlights, straked the sky.”

In Clem’s emotionally costive childhood, the elasticated bloomers side of things very much rules; but here comes the sun, in the exotically part-French-Canadian form of Frankie, rich, beautiful and smelling of sweat, strawberries “and something like vanilla ice cream.” Clem discovers he has a sweet tooth, and soon he’s making tender, ecstatic sketches of Frankie’s half-naked form during their barn-loft trysts. In those moments he allows himself to believe “that instead of being in history he was in love,” but the big stuff is all around him, and is closing in fast. At first, mind you, it seems it might give Clem a helping hand: the Kennedy-Khrushchev crisis provides the very world-ending excuse he needs to persuade Frankie to finally agree to _____. (It’s no good. I’m simply too British to spell it out. Insert euphemism of your choice here.) And sure enough, this works out nicely – for a few minutes anyway, before the cruel arbitrariness of history reasserts itself, and Clem and Frankie are, literally, torn apart.

Clem’s a survivor, and he doesn’t give up on art. He goes on to be an illustrator, doing “hyper-realistic spreads” of cars and spacecraft. But something’s been lost from those fragile, lust-wracked drawings made in the barn’s half-darkness, and joy is confined to memory. We’re left with the glittering surface consolations of life’s transient beauty, and of Mal Peet’s mastery of words.

Downbeat as the English 1950s might well have been, they didn’t really hold a candle to 1940s Lithuania, where Ruta Sepetys’ extraordinary Between Shades of Gray begins. It’s got wide-screen maps at the front, the better to ram home the unimaginable distances Lina Vilkas and her family – and countless other victims of Stalin’s ethnic purges – were required to travel, while undergoing appalling privation. Altai Labor Camp; Biysk; Yakutsk; Trofimovsk… you don’t need a degree in geography to guess these places are pretty grim; when combined with the hideous cruelty of the NKVD it’s incredible anyone survived at all. Lina is a fictional character, but her experiences are those of real people, and the clear authenticity of the account chills you like a Siberian wind. It’s a measure of the writer’s skill that what could quickly numb us with its horrors instantly acquires the remorseless grip and momentum of the best of thrillers. The opening chapters, where Lina, her brother Jonas, and her mother, Elena, are arrested by the Russians, are brilliantly judged. It’s all over in a handful of pages, as swift, brutal and abrupt as the act itself. The little boy readies his school bag instead of a suitcase, not guessing this is the end of childhood; if he ever returns, it will be as a grown man.

This is Sánchez Cotán’s void reaching out to engulf us, and now only the strongest moral flames will remain alight. One of these is Elena Vilkas, who has a “beautiful spirit,” and whose “cup overflowed with love for everyone and everything around her, even the enemy.” Her radiance helps protect Lina, even in the darkest places; but Lina has another secret weapon too. She is drawing.

Before the purges began, Lina was rather taken with the work of Edvard Munch. She responds to his virtuosity, to his raw depictions of pain, decay and death. As she breezily informs her parents:

“He said ‘From my rotting body flowers shall grow, and I am in them and that is eternity.’ Isn’t that beautiful?”

Papa smiled at me: “You’re beautiful because you see it that way.”

When death really comes calling, all trace of adolescent morbidity falls away. Here in the camps, art has a proper job to do. Secretly Lina records daily events in all their vileness: it is a testament of what is being done to them. She also draws coded messages for her father – lost somewhere in Russia’s vastness – and gives them to others to be passed on, hand to hand, in the hope they will one day reach him. She doesn’t know if her father is alive; if he ever gets the messages, he won’t know if she survives. The importance is all in the passing down – in keeping the message alive. This is art devolving into its most primal form: a defiant statement of existence. I am not – I was not – nothing. I reject the void.

Ruta Sepetys has passed the message on to us, sketching the incomprehensible in plain, clear lines. She shows us love, hope and tenderness flourishing in hell, and in doing so has created an unputdownable book. Recommend this. Hand it on in turn.

I don’t know about you, but I reckon book characters, like real people, fall broadly into two classes. “Radiators” and “Drains.” “Radiators” emit warmth and light – they nourish and inspire. You’re re-energised by their presence. “Drains” subtly draw energy from you, suck out your life force, like coke being drawn through a straw.

Doug Swieteck in Gary D. Schmidt’s Okay For Now is most definitely a radiator. When he comes to Marysville, in 1969, the odds are stacked against him. His nameless father’s lost to drink and truculent self-pity; one brother’s a miserable bully, the other lies absent, and terribly injured, out in Vietnam. But all’s not lost. Doug’s got his mother (“You think Elizabeth Taylor can smile? If you saw my mother’s smile you wouldn’t even let Elizabeth Taylor in the same room.”), and she’s a soul-cousin to Elena Vilkas, radiant and enduring. Even better, he’s got his own nature. Doug’s honest, brave, witty and generous, and if he wins over the whole town by the end of the book he won over this reader within a couple of pages. Probably about the time he first uses the word “chump.”

Doug’s narrative voice is a thing of wonder. It’s perfectly balanced, attuned both to the comic and the sublime. Here’s him contemplating Fall:

The trees were reddening and yellowing. You could see the color moving like a slow tide down the hills that rose on both sides of stupid Maryville…. Except the trees around The Dump [his house]. Their leaves turned brown and dropped.


When all’s said and done, this is friendship talking. Doug’s right there with you, and you want to go out and throw horseshoes with him, or share a cold coke with ice coming down the sides.

Which isn’t to say Doug doesn’t have a favourite artist too. He does. It’s John James Audubon, whose Birds of America sits in Marysville library, minus some pages they’ve sliced out and sold off to make ends meet, a neat metaphor for Doug’s messed-up life, and of course for the whole beautiful, wounded USA.

Enraptured by the art, Doug begins to draw himself out of a bad place. And we quickly find that Audubon’s birds not only have the realistic surface perfection of a Sánchez Cotán’s painting, but also the emotional intensity of a Munch. Take the black-backed gull with a broken wing: “His head was pulled far back, like he was taking one last look at the sky that he would never fly in again. And his round eye told you he knew that everything was ruined forever.”

Like Clem, like Lina, Doug learns, through art, to engage with life: it’s a slow, dedicated commitment to embracing the pain as well as the joys. So he looks at his mother, “[watching] her smile and wondering how I could ever draw it, it was that beautiful.” And he looks on too when his mother greets his broken brother, legless and almost blind: “She held Lucas’ face in both her hands. Her blue coat was spread out, and it covered them both like wide wings.”

Doug looks. And, because of the generosity of his nature, he finds hope out there, even in the void. This commitment to life is very attractive. By the end, everyone’s with him. I’m not sure I believe the world could ever be quite this accommodating, even to such a remarkable boy as Doug, but I sure as heck would like it to be so. (Actually Gary D. Schmidt knows we can’t have everything, and he takes care to leave one really BIG bit of the jigsaw just out of position as the book closes. We think it’ll end all right, but we don’t know. All of us have to keep the faith.)

Okay, it’s time for the Big Kahuna to unhook his beard, hitch up his robes (not too high), and steal away, leaving three fine books behind him on the picnic chair. They’re all first-rate, but for its humour, its poignancy, for its serious heart and lightness of touch, above all for the continual joy it gave me, my choice for this year’s winning book is Gary D. Schmidt’s Okay For Now.


— Judge Jonathan Stroud

Terrific, indeed! But wait! What of the rumors that Bartimaeus would co-opt this decision? I had hoped that he would somehow worm his way into the seventh plane and pluck his buddy Brimstone into an already crowded final round. Ah, well. Nevertheless, this is sure to be an extremely popular decision, and it harkens back to the very first year of the BOB when fan favorite THE HUNGER GAMES won the title. In the fantasy scenario in which—ahem—I judge every round and determine the Undead winner, I had AMELIA LOST vs. DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE vs. LIFE: AN EXPLODED DIAGRAM. So it stands to reason that I, like RGN, would have picked LIFE: AN EXPLODED DIAGRAM. But I am not unhappy with OKAY FOR NOW and am quite pleased to see this accolade go on Gary’s fireplace mantel next to the National Book Award finalist medallion necklace thingy; the Odyssey Honor trophy hardware goes to the publisher, I believe. Like many of you, I have really enjoyed the addition of the kid commentators this year, and find it interesting that both of them favored one of the YA titles over the juvenile titles. Take note, Heavy Medalers, that we should never, ever underestimate a child audience. Many thanks to all our judges, especially to our Big Kahuna, and to all of our followers. See you next year!

— Commentator Jonathan Hunt

Please join us in congratulating
by Gary D. Schmidt
for winning the
2012 Battle of the Kids’ Books.

to download a bigger version of the 2012 BoB Finale Poster for display!

to download a similar poster with caption listing all 2012 contenders. 


    I’m really happy that Okay for Now won the BoB.I also predicted that this would happen, which made it even better! I’m looking forward to next year’s BoB.

  2. Braaaaains! What fun. Congrats to all the players.

  3. Steffaney Smith says

    Doug wins! Thank you, J. Stroud, for a wonderful dissertation on the 3 contenders. Without knowing you, I had assumed a different choice, but I am thrilled with your choice. To BoB organizers and bloggers, thanks for a wonderful March Madness of books. I enjoyed my first cup of coffee each morning with the finest authors and readers. Sorry to see it end! Next year my goal is to have more of the contending bookjs read! Enjoyed the kid commentators; very astute and natural. And now, I’m off to order Doug’s story for my library…and I’m first on the list to read it. Until next year…keep finding those priceless characters in books!

  4. Sara Ralph says

    Not unhappy with the decision; while I had a hard time getting past the unbelievable plot twists, Doug is one of my favorite characters and The Wednesday Wars is one of the books I would take on a deserted island. Read all the books this year and loved reading all the decisions. Thanks to all who made BoB possible.

  5. Sam Bloom says

    Well, how can I be disappointed with an amazing write-up like that? Congrats to all the Doug Swieteck fans out there, and I’m just thankful one of my books made it to the Big Kahuna round. Thanks to all the organizers for another great year, and thanks to all the commenters for some excellent discussions!

  6. The Battle never disappoints. I have no one to tell about this, my hair is still wet, I have to leave in 20minutes, but I still have to comment. I’m so pleased. This truly is my favorite event in blogdom!! YAY!! And thank goodness for the Undead!!! Thanks SLJ!!

  7. Yes!
    “They’re all first-rate, but for its humour, its poignancy, for its serious heart and lightness of touch, above all for the continual joy it gave me, my choice for this year’s winning book is Gary D. Schmidt’s Okay For Now.”

    For that Jonathan Stroud, you are my hero. It is nice to see humor, joy and hope triumph. It makes on feel so joyful and hopeful.

  8. Makes ONE feel…See, I’m so giddy with joy I can’t type.

  9. sharon c says

    so happy for the winner, great choice, although all are fine books..Nice job, Jonathan

  10. Big sigh. Thank you Jonathan Stroud.

  11. Genevieve says

    Oh, hooray hooray hoorayyyyyyyyy!!!

    So thrilled at the result, and loving Judge Kahuna Stroud’s marvelous elucidation of each finalist. The hope and levity and resilience that emerges in Doug is one of the things I love best about this book, which was truly the best book I thought I read last year.

    Kid Commentators, you did a fantastic job — should’ve said this yesterday. You made such thoughtful, sensitive, principled points about the books, and had such insight into them. I would happily read your commentaries any time. What a great addition to the BoB.

  12. Genevieve says

    “best book I thought I read last year” – um, I thought it was the best book I read last year. I know that I read it! (the “I thought” was there b/c it was the best in my opinion, to me, but not to everyone and I’m not arguing with that.)

  13. Will the final brackets be made available as a pdf?

  14. Battle Commander says

    Yes, we are working on getting a final bracket up shortly.

  15. Battle Commander says

    The two official kid commentators received the decisions and judge write-ups prior to the Matches in preparation for their comments, except for the LAST, FINAL, KAHUNA match. They found out the result along with the rest of the world. Isn’t it interesting that each of them picked a different book from each other and from our final Judge? And we can see how every decision makes sense in their own way. Hopefully, that is something that we all take away from reading and thinking about all these fine books last month: that even if we don’t all agree on what we love most, we all agree that examining literature and exchanging ideas on books can be exciting, thought-provoking, and community building. Zai-Jian (good bye in Chinese,) everyone — and come back tomorrow or Wednesday to find out the winners of our Giveaway prizes!

  16. Bernadette says

    I only got a chance to read 6 titles this year but those did include all three finalists. I was pulling for Okay for Now as soon as the books were announced. A big part of the reason I loved it was that instead of reading it I listened to the audiobook. I’m not usually a fan of audiobooks but in this case I was wandering around the house, shushing my kids, walking to school, exercising, and riding in the car listening. The fact that it received only an Odyssey Award Honor makes me curious to listen to the winner – how could it be better?

    I think any book that inspires you to pick up another book is an award winner – especially if the readers are kids! Who could read any of these 16 books and not be inspired to read more on the subject or more by the author?

  17. Doug lives!!!! I’m so excited that Okay For Now (one of my favorite books of last year and all time) won! Woo!

  18. A brilliant decision! I am unreasonably happy for a Monday morning! And wonderful, thoughtful analysis! It is a mark of the excellence of the finalists that there is still so much to be said in the fourth round of judging. What a glorious Battle this has been! Huzzah for Doug!

  19. Even though I was secretly hoping that nationalistic fervor over the Diamond Jubilee would lead Mr. Stroud to elevate LIFE, I am equally pleased about OFN. It was one of the three books I read last year that had me blinking in wonder every time I had to put it down, like I’d just come out of the theatre and the feeling hadn’t quite left me yet. Thanks to all BoKB organizers, judges, commenters, esp. kid commentators, and most of all, this fantastic bunch of children’s authors.

  20. Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, YES!!!!!! *Happy Dance!*

    Oh, Jonathan Stroud, you’re a master of prose and this analysis of all three books is brilliant. My favorite line was this one, which answers the detractors of Okay for Now:

    “I’m not sure I believe the world could ever be quite this accommodating, even to such a remarkable boy as Doug, but I sure as heck would like it to be so.” I feel exactly the same!

    Battle Commander, I also loved your line: “Hopefully, that is something that we all take away from reading and thinking about all these fine books last month: that even if we don’t all agree on what we love most, we all agree that examining literature and exchanging ideas on books can be exciting, thought-provoking, and community building.” I couldn’t have said it better! Thanks so much for your part in orchestrating this Battle.

  21. I ditto that Sondy. Well said Battle Commander. I myself, find myself stopping and practicing deep breathing routines from time to time. I am copying your following words somewhere so I’ll remember them:

    “Hopefully, that is something that we all take away from reading and thinking about all these fine books last month: that even if we don’t all agree on what we love most, we all agree that examining literature and exchanging ideas on books can be exciting, thought-provoking, and community building.”

  22. Emma Humphrey says

    I am currently doing a happy dance! I absolutely love Okay for Now and was desperately hoping for it to come back into the big kahuna! I loved Doug Swieteck’s narration and thought that the whole book was absolutely terrific.. To the credit of the bob program I feel like the only other book that gave Okay for Now a run for it’s money was Between Shades of Gray, and so while we had a true battle the better book pulled through in the end.

  23. RIGHT KNOW I AM DOING A HAPPY DANCE. I loved okay for know because you really got a feel for Doug and get to now Doug. But I feel that between shades of gray really could have won. It was hard to choice they where so different okay for know had me on the floor laughing but between shades of gray was so beautifully written and really got to my heart and made me cry. But I really feel that okay for know really should have won. YA GO OKAY FOR KNOW I THING THIS REALLY WAS A BATTLE. I WOULD RECOMMEND BOTH BOOKS THEY WHERE BOTH VERY GOOD FULL OF SUPRISES AND KEPT ME UP FOR NIGHTS AND WILL MAKE YOU LAUGH AND CRY AND HEART STOP. I LOVE BOTH BOOKS. BUT YA OKAY FOR KNOW I GIVE 20 THUMBS UP TO BOTH AUTHORS FOR WRITTING THE BOOKS YOU ARE BOTH GREAT AUTHORS. THANKS TO BOTH AUTHORS FOR BEING GREAT WRITTERS. I LOVE THAT OKAY FOR KNOW WON 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  24. It was with a feeling of trepidation that I clicked on the link this morning. Yippeee!!! So glad that Doug won.

    A round of applause to the judges and organizers of the contest. Excellent job all around. A special round of applause to kid commentators, GI and RGN. Also, I’d like to say how much I’ve enjoyed the illustrations that accompanied each category. Love how each one depicted the book perfectly and with a sense of humor. Who did them?

    Thank you.

  25. Jennifer H says

    What a great battle! Part of me didn’t want today to come, no matter how much I wanted to know the winner. I’m thrilled for Okay for Now! I loved it and so many of the books in the BOB. The euphoria from when I read the decision this morning – which was so good I never wanted to it end! – to now when I finally have time to sit down and comment, is fading. Another Battle won and done. Another year to wait for the next one. And so many books to read in between! Congratulations to all the authors for their wonderful books, all so deserving of recognition, and a huge Thank You to our Judges, Kid Commentators, and Battle Commanders!

  26. Woke up this morning with serious avoidance instincts.

    Looked at my laptop. I found my heart too chicken to check.

    First day of Spring Break. It snowed yesterday, but this morning spring flaunted itself outside with all its time-sucking promises of yard work.

    Stumbled around in a narcotic-cough-syrup fog. Picked up the laptop, but . . . maybe I needed to sleep a bit more.
    Looked out at unpruned fruit trees. So many things to avoid. So little time.

    Cavorted with Horvath’s Bunny detectives for awhile. Such entertaining prose. Candidate for next year? I think, yes.

    Laptop sat there. Mocking me. Remembered it needed serious tech support. Made the call that promised hours of on-hold Muzak.

    What to do while waiting? Check e-mail, check facebook, check twitter, check . . . what else could I check? Please come up with something! Yes, BoB! I see your insidious little icon.

    As long as I lived in ignorance, Doug still lived. Well, the living dead.

    Ok, ready to face the truth and see what Mr. Stroud had to say.

    As impressive, and they were most impressive, the student commentators were, we did not see eye to eye on the outcome. Would Stroud side with one of them? Would he pull out the much used mantras of: “it’s such an adult book, but oh my, the writing left me dizzy” or “it’s such an important subject, never seen in print before”?

    I’ve enjoyed the Battle for four years now, why am I so nervous. I was thrilled when HUNGER GAMES won the first year, but felt more like a bystander, bemused by the fabulous judgments. I championed THE LOST CONSPIRACY the next year, but was content when MARCHING FOR FREEDOM took the honor. Happy that such an important and powerful book got it’s just due. And a few months later when I met Elizabeth Partridge, and found her to be a most lively and interesting person I conveniently forgot I’d ever wanted another. Last year when the contestants were announced I was already in love with ONE CRAZY SUMMER and KEEPER, then I went on to read WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON, which go my zombie vote, but once I finished TRASH my affection took another shift. I also became introduced to Bartimaeus through the Battle, and wonder why I’d never met him before. Naturally he should be the winner.

    Why then this year, did I find myself in tears when Jeff Kinney cast Doug aside? Why did I become unhinged to the point where SLJ began consulting their legal department about restraining orders? Why did this one book mean so much?

    As the Muzak clanked away my ear I found the answer in Jonathan Stroud’s words. “And, because of the generosity of his (Doug’s) nature, he finds hope out there, even in the void. This commitment to life is very attractive. By the end, everyone’s with him. I’m not sure I believe the world could ever be quite this accommodating, even to such a remarkable boy as Doug, but I sure as heck would like it to be so.”

    And amid my sobs I croaked out, “Me too, me too, Mr. Stroud. I want everyone’s world to be just that accommodating.”

    And a paragraph later, as I read the verdict, my hoarse cry of victory frightened my husband who already held concerns regarding my sanity.

    Now, the tech guy says I need to wipe all evidence of my existence from my computer in hopes that it will quit behaving in an ungentlemanly like manner. But before I did, I needed to say thank you.

    Thank you, Jonathan Stroud, for seeing what so many of us saw in Doug.

    Thank you, Roxanne, Monica, and Jonathan for once again bringing us such a marvelous event to lose ourselves in. And for choosing such juicy books.

    Thank you student commentators, for proving the young are ready for the very best in literature.

    Thank you fellow commenters, for binging such fun to the discussion.

    And mostly, thank you Gary Schmidt, for giving us Doug.

  27. You know what’s a good thing? That I had to stay home today due to a car in the repair shop. Because my coworkers would not have understood the jumping up and down that just occurred. One of my favorite authors recognized the joy in one of my favorite books. Thank you for another great year and another great bracket of books!

  28. What suspense! As the Battle Commander said, we did know all decisions up to this round, but this round was the most anticipated one, and from day one I was drawing conclusions. I was very happy that Between Shades of Gray made it this far, and as much as I love Doug, I am said that Lina did not win. This has been such an incredible experience for me, so I just want to say a thanks to the Battle Commanders for including me in this years battle. Until next year!

  29. RGN Official Kid Commentator says

    I’ll echo GI’s comment (But with Life: An Exploded Diagram instead of Between Shades of Grey). THANKS SO MUCH TO THE BATTLE COMMANDERS. This has been great. I’d also like to thank all the very nice and insightful commenters on BoB. 🙂

  30. Battle Commander says

    Tomorrow, we will reveal the Identity of the Man Behind all the Art Work for BoB … and come back again on Wednesday to see the drawing of the winners of our giveaways! The Battle Commander (one Commander, two Heads – um.. — bodies, too) truly appreciate the two diligent Kid Commentators for their invaluable contributions this year — and can’t thank enough our steadfast Official Commentator Jonathan Hunt for all the work before and after the Battle started. There is at least one more incredibly important person who still wishes to remain quietly behind the scene that we must give all our gratitude to. Plus ALL the SLJ folks in helping to promote the Battle and in fixing glitches and running of the site. Too many people to thank…. Can’t leave out all 15 generous judges for their wisdom, talent, and passion!

  31. Awesome choice. I loved it from the first moment I read it. Loved reading all the decisions.

  32. ¡Muy bien! Tuve a mi hija a traducir los puestos, y puedo decir que es completamente magnífico! Disfruto todos los libros, y estos géneros son de Mis Favoritos! Estoy deseando que llegue la próxima batalla.

  33. I’m on spring break and this was the first time I’ve had to comment (two children at Universal Studios is exhausting). Needless to say, I am excited and thrilled! Doug deserves it all! In our jaded world we seem to think that the happy ending never occurs, and the one criticism I’ve heard about Okay for Now is that the ending isn’t realistic. Well I say that the ending isn’t completely happy, but even it it was, sometimes things do end happily and sometimes kids (after all, kids are the primary audience of this book) need the happy to occur.

  34. At long last! My favorite book of the whole year wins the Big One, Baby! I grieved when it didn’t win the NBA. I tantrummed when it didn’t get even a silver medal for Newbery. And when Jeff Kinney passed over it for BoB, I sighed deeply, consumed with sorrow. Finally, today, at long last, Doug Swieteck gets the respect and love he deserves! After all the abuse he took from his fast-handed dad and brothers, he found love with Lil Spicer. And now I’m beyond thrilled to see him come back from the dead and win the love of BoB.

  35. Janet Y. says

    Spring Break is the perfect time to read Okay for Now!

  36. Battle Commander says

    Thanks also to all the publishers who helped in many ways — with the judges, the contenders, and otherwise being so supportive of the Battle, especially our sponsors HarperCollins and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt who, among other things, made our giveaways possible.

    From the Monica side/head of the Battle Commander (this is schizophrenic sometimes:) may I say how heartening and gratifying this year’s Battle has been. To see this idea become such a vibrant and exciting reality thanks to all of you commenting and tweeting and blogging and printing out the brackets for your libraries and otherwise celebrating this event (Occupy BoB!) has been absolutely wonderful. For those of us who conceived and are orchestrating the Battle in front of and behind the scenes, it is a Battle of love — we do it because we love it and because as Roxanne (the other half of the Battle Commander) pointed out above this is all about community-building, the creation of a group of book lovers of all ages and from all places, deliberating, considering, debating, reading thoughtfully and openly, appreciating the art and work of book creation in a myriad of ways.

    Next year is our fifth year anniversary — evidently the traditional material for 5 year wedding anniversaries is wood — what does that mean for the BoB, I wonder? By all means email us with any celebratory ideas you have.

  37. Yippeee!!! So happy to see one of my favorite characters of the year get his reward! 🙂

  38. After I read this amazing passage in Jonathan Stroud’s Big Kahuna judgment, I would have been up for anything else he said and any winner he picked!

    “[E]ach one of our finalists stands up like a Tiananmen Square protester before the oncoming tank of history, eyes it straight down the barrel and, while acknowledging its brutal strength, still finds cause for hope.”

  39. Well, that turned out very nicely and I did not have to sic these inebriated raccoons on the BoBs after all.

  40. This year’s BoB found me in tears so many times as the books I loved were thrown aside in match after match. It got to the point where I didn’t want to visit because I was so scared! For the first time, I actually read the comments first before scrolling down to find out the winner!! Mr Stroud was so eloquent! I want to review books they way he did these three!!! I didn’t even see that all three books contained art and war! Two of my favorite books made it this far and one book I absolutely detested. So glad the good book won!

    Can’t wait to see what next year’s battle brings! Wood??? Maybe we can get some plaques!

  41. Yes!! I’m incredibly late to this, but I’m so glad that Okay For Now won. And the way that the judging was written was a treat in itself. They’re all such brilliant books (although I haven’t read Life: An Exploded Diagram yet).


  1. […] for the BoB‘s final round Big Kahuna Jonathan Stroud decides between Ruta Sepetys’s Between Shades of Gray, Mal […]

  2. […] not telling! You’ll just have to click on over to the School Library Journal site and read Jonathan Stroud’s incredible analysis of the three finalists—Life: An Exploded Diagram […]

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