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Battle of the Books

The 2015 Contenders!










BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson

CHILDREN OF THE KING by Sonya Hartnett

THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander

EGG & SPOON by Gregory Maguire

EL DEAFO by Cece Bell

THE FAMILY ROMANOV by Candace Fleming



THE MADMAN OF PINEY WOODS by Christopher Paul Curtis

POISONED APPLES by Christine Heppermann

THE PORT CHICAGO 50 by Steve Sheinkin

THE STORY OF OWEN by E. K. Johnston

THIS ONE SUMMER by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki


WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart

WEST OF THE MOON by Margi Preus

Read more about the year’s battle in this SLJ article.



  1. Gave a little yelp at THE CHILDREN OF THE KING. Australian author combined with early in the year release have dropped it from everyone’s radar. My good gracious, what a wonderful voice and delicious little girls.

    I’ve had POISONED APPLES banging about my office asking for a reason to read it. And since a discussion with Roxanne have kept OWEN on my to-read list. Guess I’ll need to go back and put the John Brown book back on the list. Thought I’d dodged that bullet.

    My only disappointment is WE WERE LIARS, doesn’t everyone know the big reveal by now and without that . . . who really cares.

  2. Oh, and go EL DEAFO! That is definitely where my heart is. Not since the year of OKAY FOR NOW have I had a clear and definitive favorite.

    • Sorry, one more and it is a big %#@&*. Will EL DEAFO and THE FAMILY ROMANOV go up against each other in the first round? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! May I please have two zombie votes?

  3. LOVE: Brown Girl Dreaming, The Crossover, Poisoned Apples, Port Chicago 50, The Story of Owen

    El Deafo is a great book, but not a love for me. I think it may be the animal factor. Animals that act like humans ALWAYS creep me out. No exceptions.

    Disappointed We Were Liars is on the list. I think this book was over-hyped enough already and not deserving of it at all.

    West of the Moon and Children of the King were both books that annoyed me. West of the Moon because of a spoiler so I won’t say yet. In The Children of the King I couldn’t buy that none of those kids knew the story of Richard III. What kind of schools were they all attending anyway?

    That leaves seven books I haven’t read including Family Romanov. (If I counted right.) I put that on hold as soon as Cybils were over and it still hasn’t come in. Grrrr. But for the first time in a few years I probably won’t read all the books on the list because I have no desire to read Grasshopper Jungle. There are other 2014 YA books I didn’t get to that are much higher priorities for me.

    Right now I’m kind of feeling apathetic about the list and whole process. Don’t know if that’s burn-out, contrariness, the record cold this morning, the fact that I missed my workout last night, or some combination of all of these. I will read the books I haven’t read and try to work up more enthusiasm before we start.

    • Brandy, go for a jog. Ignore the rabbit ears, and find love for colossal sexually rapacious, blood-thirsty, insects and get back to us. We need you here.

      • I need someone to read El Deaf to me so I can assess it on its non-picture merits. Wonder if my husband would be willing. 🙂

        See, I have absolutely no interest in reading anything described with the words “colossal sexually rapacious, blood-thirsty, insects”. Ew. But if I have time, I will read it. (I probably won’t.)

        • Mores the pity. It is a very select genre.

          Have fun in Chicago, Brandy. Be sure and get in line by 6:30 again just for old time sake. Your goal this year is to beat Barry Goldblatt to the front of the line.

        • I did a post on El Deafo where I pulled out several sections of text to prove that it is a stong Newbery contender (that it works beautifully without the images). So no bunny ears there:

        • Brandy – I had pretty serious reservations about Grasshopper Jungle. BUT, it turned out to be one of my favorite books of 2014. I’m not a fan of B-movie horror, so giant “sexually rapacious, blood-thirsty” bugs hold no charms for me. The thing that I found so great about this book, was that despite all the bizarre and frightening things happening around him, the main character was still a regular teenage guy, worrying about mostly normal stuff: friendships, girlfriend, family, his dog, bullies, skateboarding, feeling horny all the time etc. It’s like a realistic fiction story nested within a scifi action movie, but with authentic characters you really connect and sympathize with. I was incredibly surprised that I fell in love with this book. I tried it on a whim, and was just blown away. I also hated the cover, which is usually a death-sentence for a book for me (I know that’s wrong), but I’m going to have to change my reading habits because of GJ – and Girls Like Us, with another cover I hated, but with a story that twisted my heart in knots and made me see the world differently. Loved it.

    • Brandy, I can relate. I literally had this day marked on my calendar. The most accurate word I can muster up at this point is, “Meh.” I’ve read 10, so I don’t feel my apathy at this point is out of ignorance. Hoping to feel a spark of interest after a few days.

  4. *Five* nonfiction titles-nice! =)

  5. Well, 3 of my 5 guesses were right! Glad to see multiple graphic novels here–I’m another huge EL DEAFO fan. Interested to see the reactions to THE STORY OF OWEN–I can’t remember, have we ever had another Morris contender on the list?

  6. Every year I think, This is the year I will have read most of the titles! HAHAHA. But I have read 4 of them, which is a record for me. I suck at reading new books.

  7. That’s what I loooove about this list, reading new books! Thanks for the list, I’ve read 7 which is a record for me, time to get moving. I agree El Deafo and Romanov matching up in the first round is tragic. I’ll make sure and vote for my undead this year! I love that West of the Moon and We Were Liars are up against each other. I enjoyed both of these books more than others did it seems, although I did almost throw Liars across the room at the end BUT I can’t wait to see a. who judges and b. what they say about that match up.

  8. Joan Raphael says

    Danae, I join you in love for El Deafo!!!! GO GO GO! (PLEASE don’t match Romanov vs El Deafo. PLEASE?)

  9. Joan Raphael says

    Sorry for the misspelling DaNae!

  10. I’ve read two, Brown Girl Dreaming and Grasshopper Jungle and adored them both. I’m not sure what I think of this list yet but I’m ready to dive into it!

  11. I’ve only read three(!) of the books on this list: BROWN GIRL DREAMING, THIS ONE SUMMER, and POISONED APPLES.

    I loved BROWN GIRL DREAMING and THIS ONE SUMMER, but I do not understand how POISONED APPLES made this list. I was so ready for this book, and it was such a letdown. I only grude read it because it was the only other book I had with me and I was stuck in a long line and I finished everything else.

    Can someone explain it to me? I feel like I missed something, here.

  12. I’ve got 5 read of these, and at least 4 of those (wait…actually all 5) are in the running for my favorite books of this year! Dare I read any more? How many favorites can one lady have?!
    And Brandy, I am usually with you on the animal thing, but it didn’t bug me in El Deafo. I think I just considered them kids with oversized ears. I barely saw the bunny aspect at all.

  13. Kristine A says

    I’ve got 3 read, 3 on my shelf TBR, and scouring the library catalog and amazon for the rest when — lo and behold: I see the Crossover is for sale for 1.99 on kIndle! Jump on that, my friends!

  14. Yikes! I have some catch-up reading to do! Looks like a great list.

  15. Wow, this is my lowest number yet! I’ve only read 2 of the books. (And finished one last night.) I was resolving to let 2014 go and try to do better in 2015, but I’m not sure I can resist getting more of these titles read. Perhaps if I compromise and only read the ones most interesting to me (some of which I was planning to read anyway), that will keep me plenty busy. Then the judges can convince me to include the ones I’ve missed.

  16. I love WEST OF THE MOON & CHILDREN OF THE KING Really happy that these two well-written historical novels made the selection.

  17. Yay! I felt quite well-read this year, but I’ve only read four of these (Brown Girl Dreaming – liked a lot; Egg and Spoon – slogged my way through it; We Were Liars – wish I hadn’t read it; and The Family Romanov – great). So many more to look forward to! I’m now in the middle of Children of the King. Interesting, but annoying; I’m a big Richard III partisan due to too much Josephine Tey. Maybe I’ll read El Deafo next. I need something that I’ll enjoy.
    This list may not include everyone’s favorites, but it will certainly generate a LOT of discussion. Thank you for the work to put it together!

  18. TeachingBooks has created a free list of multimedia instructional resources to help enhance the fun and reading of this year’s contenders. Please see:
    The link includes everything from author name pronunciations to book trailers and discussion guides. Plus lots of opportunities to hear from authors themselves via Meet-the-Author book readings and movies!

  19. This is our first year doing BOB, and this may be a silly question, but are they paired up in order of the list?

    • Christina, that is a perfectly sensible question and the answer is no. As far as I know they have not yet announced the brackets. Keep looking for them and hope your favorites don’t end up battling each other. At least not in the first round!

    • Battle Commander Battle Commander says

      We will reveal the brackets on February 11th! And if you are doing the BOB at your library or participating in some other way, please let us know. We will feature what you are doing here in our Peanut Gallery posts and Shelley Diaz may want to do so as well in one of her SLJ pieces. Let us know here and also email Shelley (

      • Very cool, and thanks for the information! We are doing a BOB bracket submission for middle schoolers at the Glen Ellyn Public Library in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

  20. Battle Commander Battle Commander says

    FYI, we’ve organized BoB Midwinter get-togethers in the past, but this year one of us is on the Caldecott, another is on BFYA, and the third of us is (wah) staying home. So we hope those of you at Midwinter have fun and perhaps organize your own meet-up if you like. And be sure to say hi to Jonathan and Roxanne if you see them and know that Monica will be holding the fort here waiting to see how our contenders do come Monday.

  21. I hate to even have to ask this, but what if one or two of the books might be too mature for my middle school audience? Just went through a challenge and am a bit leery right now. The one I’m thinking might be too much is Grasshopper Jungle–anyone ever done any substituting? I really want to do this! Or maybe I could just not necessarily have all the books here and if they want to read it, they can ILL from the high school? Thanks all!

  22. Hi Amy, I’m sorry you had a rough time lately, with a challenge. I would think your second option might be best for you, and don’t forget that your local public library likely owns the books as well! Perhaps give the librarian at the high school a heads up, and also the Youth Services librarian at your public library and ask them to try to have a few copies available for your kids. Good luck!

  23. Battle Commanders,

    Is there a way to read the judges’ commentaries from years past? We used to be able to do that, but I can’t figure out how to do it now. When I go to the previous battles tab, I just get the last post of that year. Some of these battles had epic commentaries, and I love to reread them.

    • Battle Commander Battle Commander says

      At the very bottom of the page on the lower left is an “older posts” link. It will take you back one screen at a time to all the posts for that Battle. You can also select the year in the Categories pulldown menu or the month. Whatever you do, you will only see one post and have to scroll back (using the “older post” button). One other suggestion is to search for the judge and his/her posts should come up. Hope that helps!


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