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Battle of the Books


School Library Journal’s Battle of the Kids’ Books is a competition among 16 of the very best books for young people of the year, judged by some of the biggest names in children’s books.

How are the books chosen?

Each year Monica Edinger, Roxanne Feldman, and Jonathan Hunt start emailing each other in the fall with numerous versions of the list of contenders.  In 2009, the first year of the contest, even before making up their long list, they spent a lot of time considering criteria. For example, how would a picture book fare against a YA novel?  Recognizing that there had to be some form of unity among the books on the roster they decided that the “fairest” thing was to select titles for a similar audience (middle grade, middle school, and high school readers). Now they always spend many weeks reading, thinking, discussing, and then putting together a very long list that is winnowed down to the final 16 contenders in early December.

As to which titles finally are included each year – we won’t bore you with the details of the dozens of emails and negotiations between the three of them.  Suffice it to say that they look both objectively and subjectively, considering fan favorites, awards, stars, and their own critical views, keeping in mind that no matter which two books are paired together no single title can be an obvious winner.

Of course, as is inevitable when such a list is made, blood is shed; each of the three has always had to leave behind favorites on this particular battlefield, but they always end up pleased with the range and diversity of the final list.

How do you decide on the brackets?

The books are matched up by title and then are handed  the list over to the folks at School Library Journal who recruit and assign the judges.

How are the judges selected?

Shelley Diaz of School Library Journal works with publishers to bring in a diverse range of writers. We all are enormously appreciative of their willingness to judge this contest.

How did you come up with this idea anyway?

Once upon a time, a book lover (read: Monica) began following the Morning News’ Tournament of Books and dreaming of doing something similar with books for young people.  For that competition, the organizers  “… take 16 of the most celebrated and highly touted novels of the year…” and then pit them against each other in a March Madness-like contest.

Driving her friends, one especially (read: Roxanne), slightly crazy with her constant natterings, Monica finally found a way to make her dream a reality.  Another friend (read: Betsy Bird) suggested School Library Journal and not only were they interested, but incredibly enthusiastic about the idea.   Soon many people came on board and have now gone way beyond the call of duty to help with the project.

Who does the wonderful graphics?

SLJ’s creative director, the wonderful Mark Tuchman.

What does the winner get?

A virtual gold medal, of course.