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Battle of the Books

The 2017 Contenders


 Here they are! Let us know what you think in the comments.




FREEDOM IN CONGO SQUARE by Carole Boston Weatherford and R. Gregory Christie

FREEDOM OVER ME by Ashley Bryan

GHOST by Jason Reynolds


THE LIE TREE by Frances Hardinge

MAKOONS by Louise Erdrich

MARCH BOOK THREE by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell


SAMURAI RISING by Pamela Turner and Gareth Hinds

SOME WRITER! by Melissa Sweet


THUNDERBOY JR. by Sherman Alexie and Yuyi Morales

WET CEMENT by Bob Raczka

WHEN GREEN BECOMES TOMATOES by Julie Fogliano and Julie Morstad




  1. Other Meredith says:

    I’ve read three of them! Of course, they’re all three super short. I’m glad that several of the ones left are also really short. Maybe I’ll finish them all this year before the battle starts.

  2. What an interesting selection! We are looking forward to a school-wide battle (we are a K-8th grade school). We’re sad to see The Wild Robot missing but very excited to see some of our favorite poetry books from the past year.

    • Battle Commander Battle Commander says:

      Awesome to know you’ve got a school-wide battle. Please keep us informed as to how it goes — pictures would be fabulous!

  3. I have read THE LIE TREE, SOME WRITER and WET CEMENT, and I started SAMURAI RISING yesterday. I am not sure yet how I feel about the changes to the age range, but at least with the picture books maybe this year I will get all the books read!

  4. Well I’ve read six of the 16 so I guess I have a bit of catching up to do. I’m not sure how I feel about the picture books on the list. I don’t remember ever having picture books in this competition before. I think it is going to make it a lot harder to judge. A bit disappointed that there is only one graphic novel and not a lot of nonfiction. Loved Passion of Dolssa and The Girl Who Drank the Moon though.

    • Battle Commander Battle Commander says:

      Yes, picture books are indeed new to the Battle. Wanted to mix things up a bit! As for what is missing, believe me, each of us Battle Commanders feel the same way! Always tough choices. We will do a blog post as some point about those we had to give up.

  5. Dang, that is a super-broad slate! This oughta be a brawl. I’m excited to hear what each of you had to give up, and I’d love to hear if there was lively debate about adding picture books.

  6. This first year in a long time there isn’t one (or two) standouts for me. This is a bit disappointing for me, as I always look forward to Battle of the Books so I can cheer for my favorites. This year, it doesn’t matter to me who wins or loses.

    p.s. I mean no offence to the books or the authors or those who DO have definite picks.

    • Battle Commander Battle Commander says:

      Curious, Alissa, what would be stand-outs for you from 2016?

      • Howdy, Battle Commander:
        Some standouts for me would be Spontaneous, by Aaron Starmer and The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis. Spontaneous, I thought, had an exceptionally original premise. And The Female of the Species just about blew my mind. The later I wasn’t sure I even liked at first, but I kept thinking about it for days and weeks after reading. I ended up realizing it was just about the best book I’d read all year.

        I know these are both geared toward older readers, so for my Tween choice: Maybe a Fox, by Kathi Appelt & Alison McGhee. I loved the writing and the use of magical realism (one of my favorite genres).

  7. Eric Carpenter says:

    Love the addition of picture books! Just promise us that judges will be barred from using the term “apple to __________” in their decisions.
    Also I might cry if the bracket is alphabetical again this year. FREEDOM OVER ME and GHOST should not be a first round match up!
    See ya soon!

  8. I know I will learn much from reading the posts of each “battle”. I’m grateful to the judges for their thoughtful evaluations of the books.

  9. Wow! Nice distraction. Only one to read. Love to see picture books included. It is hard not to let my fervor for GHOST overwhelm everything, but I’m with Eric, I love to see FREEDOM OVER ME find a place to shine. Also, MARCH!

  10. I’m going to have to make a huge adjustment with the 6 Elementary titles. Our Battle is in a 9-12 High School setting. I hope I can “sell” the younger books with discussions of their outstanding quality, their long lists of awards and recognitions. Obviously I’ll talk up the quick-read aspects. I’ve toyed with trying appeal to mature students as future parents with an interest in quality literature for their future children. If anyone out there in BOBville has ideas as to how to keep High School from being turned off by the younger options, please speak up. I thought the word “Kids'” in the title was a problem in the past years, but now I’m going to have to find a way to embrace it and make it work.

    • Battle Commander Battle Commander says:

      We hope you can because you’ve been one of shining lights doing this in the past. I like the suggestion of them being future parents. Perhaps they have young siblings/relatives they could try the books out with? Especially the picture books? Look at them through an artistic lens? We absolutely want to help you keep this going as you have in the past. Thanks so much!

      • Thanks! I thought I’d tell you about this last Friday. The book are piled on the table closest to the door. I’m working on them in various stages of contest work (cataloging updates, eBook orders, audiobook considerations). Seniors start piling in for lunchtime/library time.
        “What’s all this?”
        “March Madness books for this year.”
        “Cool! Hey, look little ones!”
        “Yeah, read one, and you’ll get a bye on that book’s match-up.”
        “Heck, I can read this one and this one and this one.”
        By now quite a crowd has gathered. Jordan (six-feet tall with an impressive beard) has already read 2 of the little books, and he is starting on his 3rd. Jacob (nearly six-feet tall with a full-time job) has read Thunderboy Jr. and is telling me the story in the pictures that I had totally missed because I only read the words, not the pictures. A half-dozen girls and guys are reading the Wet Cement book and passing it around and chattering about how “cool” it is.

        Battle Commander and your cohorts, you have scored again! March Madness is going to be great!

    • Tricia Allen says:

      I think also appealing to their inner child might work as well – a nostalgic approach! “Remember when you were in first grade and the only homework you had was a single math worksheet? And you pulled out crayons and markers to color during choice time? Try to keep that kid in mind when you look at this quick-read title!”

      • Thanks, Tricia. Based on last Friday’s lunchtime experience with the books and the students, they are READY to connect to their inner child. Who knew? You, it appears.

    • Eric Carpenter says:

      I hope high schools everywhere take this opportunity to remind students and teachers that no one is ever too old for picturebooks. And the titles selected certainly lend themselves to deep analysis. I could easily imagine a HS english teacher using Freedom in Congo Square, Wet Cement, and WGBT in poetry units. And what Alexie and Morales have done with symbolism in Thunderboy Jr. is astonishing. A perfect picture book to use when introducing the form. Also have you thought about involving your studio art teachers to discuss the illustrations with students? Christie’s painted and layered paper technique is stunning (insert another plug for midwinter attendees to see the original works in person while in atlanta) and both Morales and Morstad have done masterful work in their unique styles. There are a lot of ways to celebrate these titles with teens. In fact I’m a bit envious of your opportunity.

      • Well, Eric, you are right on the money! We had a great time Friday looking at these books in ways you are talking about. One of our district librarians is at ALA, and she will be looking for Christie’s art while she is there (thanks for the heads up). That will add another layer of excitement to the promotions. We have a new art teacher this year who is right across the hall. I’ll be talking to her Monday, thanks to your idea.

    • I, for one, am a teen who’s very excited about the picture books, and I’m going to show them to my younger brother. In terms of teen engagement, well, I’m a teen who reads a lot anyways, but I think the quick-read aspect definitely has appeal. Reading a picture book could be a way to procrastinate that’s more refreshing than looking at Facebook. 🙂 Good luck!

    • As an adult, I found much to glean from the picture books. The poetry is amazing, and the historical context leaves much to be explored. The art, as well, appeals to a broad range.

  11. I’m sure that it’s hard to choose, but I’d love to see Wolf Hollow or Maybe a Fox thrown into the mix! Freedom In Congo Square is stunning, but I’m not sure how you go about comparing it to Some Writer or The Girl Who Drank the Moon… just wondering how those discussions are going to look.

  12. Linda Wolfe says:

    I love the list and the inclusion of picture books. The picture books chosen are not “just little kid books!” I have pitched them to parents in my elementary school to share with their children, and the adults love them even more than the kids. Sometimes, it is because the adults can appreciate the art and the deeper meaning more than the children.
    I’ve read 11 of the choices, so I think I can finish all by the time the Battle begins!
    I would have loved to see Pax and Maybe Something Beautiful on the list.

  13. Emilie Griffith says:

    I am glad to see picture books included this year. As a librarian in a PK-5 school, I’ve always modified my bracket to have older “chapter” books on one side and picture books on the other, so I could include all of our students in our voting process (they enjoy having a “bigs” book and a “littles” book going head to head for the championship). But if we want to get everyone involved, bringing in picture books allows all ages to get excited about reading. I have lots of four- and five-year-olds who are just as passionate about Gerald and Piggie as my 5th graders are about Greg Heffley! For me, BOB is not so much about picking the best book of the year, as it is getting kids excited and involved in reading.

  14. Susan Dickey says:

    What was missing from the BOB field were the middle grade novels, which could compete much better with the YAs. It will be much more difficult to judge the picture books against the field.

    • Battle Commander Battle Commander says:

      Do you mean this year? MG-novel-wise we do have GHOST, THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON, MAKOONS, and WHEN THE MOON TURNED TO SILVER. And some good picture books for older readers and MG nonfiction.

  15. The wide range of titles is interesting to say the least. I think I like the addition of the picture books. Although, the inclusion of them, undoubtedly left off some of my favorites that I was really looking forward to seeing do battle here… like PAX and THE INQUISITOR’S TALE to name just a few.

    Oh well. I’ve read 8 of those 16 so I’ll be following along intently. The battles of the novels vs. the picture books will be fascinating to read!

  16. I’ve read exactly half of these. And five of those 8 are among my Sonderbooks Stand-outs — my favorites for the reading year. Any of those 5 I’d be super happy to see win. And now some of those I didn’t get around to reading but meant to — guess I’m not off the hook!

  17. Battle Commander Battle Commander says:

    Really pleased with how many contenders won YMA (Youth Media Awards) honors today.

  18. I have to admit I am loving all of these books as I read them. I do have a very important question about Freedom Over Me however. I hope someone can tell me what I missed. I loved this book and was truly excited when I found the appraisement at the end. As I was pouring over it I noticed that John, age 16, was not listed on either the original or the recreation. Did I miss it somewhere? Where did John come from? Did anyone else notice this? These details drive me crazy!

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