Category Archives: Battle of the (Kids’) Books

SLj’s BoB Round 2 Starts with Judge Javaka Steptoe

I like to think of these two books as pieces of music: One is like a work song, the other a classical concerto. In this way they are quite different and yet comparable, with one resonating for me more than the other.

Check out the lovely whole of the 2017 Caldecott winner’s decision between Congo in Freedom Square and When Green Becomes Tomatoes here.


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The 9th Annual SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books Starts Tomorrow!

It is simply thrilling to be part of the team creating this Battle for the 9th year. We’ve got an awesome line-up of contenders, amazing judges, and exciting decisions. If you want to bring a contender back from the dead to compete in the closing round (judged by Kwame Alexander!) you can still vote today here.  And if you want to see it all laid out, you can get beautiful brackets to download here.  And if you want to learn more, do watch Kidlit TV’s first ever #SLJBOBCAST below. Shelley and I review all the contenders and judges, Mark Tuchman gives some insight into his art, and there’s even a surprise guest judge! It was great fun to do and I hope you enjoy watching it. Most of all, be sure to check the BoB site tomorrow to see how our judge for the first match, Duncan Tonatiuh, decides between Freedom in Congo Square and Freedom Over Me.


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Last Chance to Vote Your Favorite Book Back From the Dead — Tomorrow the Battle Begins!

Today’s your last chance to have a say in the closing battle (judged by the Honorable Ann M. Martin) by voting for your favorite contender to come back from the dead here. The Undead winner will join the two other finalists in that final event of the contest, it being SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books,

And tomorrow the battle begins with The Boys Who Challenged Hitler and Challenger Deep judged by Michael Buckley.

Can’t wait!

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We’ve Got Contenders, We’ve Got Judges, We’ve Got Brackets — SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books is Coming


Yesterday we revealed the brackets with judges — our final closing judge being none other than Ann M. Martin herself. To say we are excited (“we” being us three who constitute the Battle Commander and our SLJ editor Shelley Diaz) is an understatement. And we know many others gearing up too. But I truly hope even more join in — this is a great way to revisit 16 fabulous 2015 titles and to watch 15 amazing judge-writers at work, considering and exploring them in some terrific ways. Not to mention having fun perusing Mark Tuchman’s witty graphics. And we’ve got kid commentators too — anyone who has read what they have to say will agree — they are often the stars of the battle. To learn more check out Rebecca Miller’s editorial, “The Joys of a Good Book (Battle)”  and Shelley’s overview, “Primed for a Fight“. Hope to see you out there, cheering on your favorites!


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SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books — Guess the Judge!

Today we begin revealing judges.  Here’s a hint for today’s: she was the very first EVER to win a Newbery Honor for her type of book. Find out who she is here.

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SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books 2016 Edition

We’ve announced the contenders and later this week will begin revealing this year’s judges (who are yet again awesome). The Battle Commander (myself, Roxanne Feldman, and Jonathan Hunt) and our SLJ operator Shelly Diaz can’t wait for this year’s battle to commence. Meanwhile please read Shelley’s “Primed for a Fight: SLJ’s 2016 Battle of the Kids’ Books Contenders Revealed” for an overview and a comment from me about the possibility of this year’s YMA honors changing the game going forward.


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In the Works: SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books 2016 Edition

So we’ve got the contenders and we’ve got the judges — all are incredibly awesome. The contender announcement will be in a few weeks and I just can’t wait!

For anyone who is new to this, let me explain. Starting in 2009, over at School Library Journal, we’ve been doing a tournament-style book game. We choose 16 fabulous books from the previous year, invite 16 wonderful writers to judge, and then watch it take off.  Every year is new and different. Since we select the contenders before ALA’s Youth Media Awards announcement, we are always curious how many end up among our contenders. And then, if we do have them there, how do they fare? Newbery winners, when they are among them, tend to not do so well — often they are out in the first round. No matter how famous you might be. Say in 2009 when Judge Jon Scieszka picked Sid Fleischman’s The Trouble Begins at Eight over Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. (You can find that decision here.)

We have no criteria –the judges may and do come up with many different ways to come to a decision.  Say Judge Lois Lowry who, handed the The Hunger Games and Octavian Nothing in 2009 wrote:  “How, then, to choose? Maturely, I am basing my decision solely on petulance, vengeance, reverse nepotism, and payola.” (You can read her whole fabulous decision here  — scroll down to find it.)   Or check-out runner-up Octavian‘s creator M. T. Anderson’s smart judging of two Darwinian titles in 2010 here, memorably titled, ” DARWIN VS. TATE: MANO A MANO (with opposable thumbs.)”

Some judges do essays, some do other things. Say Judge Barry Lyga who began his 2010  Pen vs. Brush thus:

I drop two books on the table in the Turf Club. No big surprise. Bobby and I are always bringing things to read. We’re at the races four days a week, but we’re not degenerate gamblers. Sometimes an hour goes by before there’s something worth betting.

 Sammy, another regular, picks the books up. Weighs them. The cover of Mal Peet’s Life: An Exploded Diagram features a lethal-looking rocket. On Allen’s Say’s Drawing from Memory, a dreamy boy in a blue sweater and blue socks appears to be flying.

“What’s the deal?” Sam asks.

“I have to decide between them,” I tell him. “It’s like a match race.”

We’ve been so fortunate with the writers who take on the judging roles. Some might surprise you. Say, Jeff Kinney who boldly decided between Schmidt and Selznick in 2012 and James Patterson who, in 2013 made a firm decision between Schlitz and Nelson. No Suzanne Collins or J. K. Rowling yet, but we can dream, can’t we?

Winners have been dystopias, graphic novels, fiction, nonfiction, and for many different ages. But it is really the journey, the excitement in seeing what the judges will decide and do that is what makes this so much fun. And, of course, it is a way to continue to appreciate books from the year before even as we become absorbed in those of the current year.

Every year is new and different. I urge you to check out the site, the previous battles, and get a sense of this incredibly wonderful thing I am so honored to be part of, SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books.


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