Tomorrow the fifth annual Battle of the Kids’ Books gets underway with a match between Bomb and Wonder judged by Kenneth Oppel. Now some, I know, are uncomfortable with the concept of books in battle, but I wish they wouldn’t be. In fact, the idea is for sixteen well-lauded books from the year before to be highlighted and admired again in a new and different way. What our judges do is thoughtful and in-depth, considering the two books they have been asked to judge and, in a variety of ways, coming up with a winner for this contest. Just with any tournament, all the contenders are great and it is just how things play out on this particular day that makes for a particular match winner. Another day and different judges and a different winner might well be the result (as is the case with pretty much all awards and contests).
I’m writing about this within a classroom context because this contest has been a terrific one for young people. Roxanne Feldman and I (the two-person Battle Commander) have been involving our students in the Battle for the last two years. Last year we introduced two very fine Kid Commentators (who will be back this year) and this year we had 5th-8th graders write introductions for the contenders. That is, each assumed the role of one of the actual books, and did a terrific job with it. (Those are here, here, here, and here.) This is something any teacher or librarian can do! In fact, we hope to expand this beyond our own students and school next year.
And that isn’t the only thing that is possible in schools and libraries. A high school library in Texas contacted us to let us know she was running the contest in her school. Others have told us of displays, bracket pools, and more. Every time we hear of this we are delighted because we’ve always hoped for the involvement of young people. Most of all I aspired to a Shadow BoB like the Shadowing Site done for the UK Carnegie Award (comparable to our Newbery). In that, young people read and vote and often come up with a completely different winner from the official judges. It would be so cool to do something like that for the BoB.
Meantime, I do encourage teachers (especially those put off by the battle metaphor) to take a look and think about how they might want to use it in their own teaching and schools. And let us know if you do!