Response to Round Two of the Battle of the Kids’ Books

by Sharon Kane

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If you read my post reflecting on Round One of School Library Journal’s Battle of the Kids’ Books, and if you followed the tournament this week on their site, you know that my predictions for the books that would move to Round 3 were mostly wrong. Even worse, I went 0 for 4 in terms of the books I wanted to move on. Oh, well, I’ve given myself a little grieving time, and now I must regroup.

The good news is that having my graduate students, as well as teens in an alternative high school housed on the SUNY Oswego campus, participate in the tournament has accomplished what I hoped it would. They are engaged, invested, and UPSET when things don’t go their way. They’re reading the judges’ essays carefully, and then conceding that those judges might have some good points. They are reading like writers, sometimes critiquing parts of the essays. Just as I am doing, they are looking ahead and making new predictions and wishes. They are continuing to read contenders so that they’ll be ready for Round Three. Perhaps what they are most looking forward to is seeing which book will come back from The Dead on March 30 to join the two books that will have advanced to the final round. (Some of them voted in the Undead Poll.) Ann M. Martin will be the official judge deciding the winner on March 31, but I’m proud that a couple dozen self-proclaimed judges in Oswego will be able to back up their choices with well-developed rationales using evidence from the books.

So, I will put my predictions and preferences on record again, despite the risk of being wrong. The books I want to advance to the final round are Echo and The Marvels. These are also the titles I predict will move on. I’d be happy with any of the following coming back from the dead: Goodbye Stranger, I Crawl through It, The Nest, or Challenger Deep.

My prediction for the announcement on March 31: Echo will go all the way.

BlogTalk: Reflections after Round One of the Battle of the Kids’ Books

by Sharon Kane

School Library Journal’s 8th annual Battle of the Kids’ Books might be the most exciting one yet. I have been involved in seven discussion groups involving followers of the contest this month, and I can tell you that emotions are running strong. Readers ranging from middle school to graduate school have expressed disappointment and frustration when their favorites are eliminated by the judges. They’ve been equally delighted as their preferred titles move on to the next round. I am thrilled at the rich discussions instigated by readers comparing books and delving deeply into the analysis of single texts. Participants have read the judges’ (all respected authors of children’s or YA literature) essays on the School Library Journal site  and have crafted their own. Oswego’s River’s End Bookstore has involved the public by hosting a book club.

Graduate students in my Literacy Education class are corresponding with students who attend an alternative high school that is housed on our SUNY Oswego campus. Some of the high school students have created remarkable artwork as their response to the literature selections. Others are filming themselves giving book talks and explaining their preferences and predictions for the next round. There are limitless educational and creative possibilities for students in conjunction with the tournament—truly a teacher’s dream!


If you’d like to join in the literary madness of March, you can comment here, and/or visit the online book club. You can find updated printable brackets here.

Since my graduate students and the high school students are listing their preferences and predictions for Round Two and beyond, for the record, here are mine:

  • Books I hope will move on to Round Three: Challenger Deep, I Crawl through It, The Nest, and Symphony for the City of the Dead.
  • Books I predict will move on: Challenger Deep, I Crawl through It, The Marvels, and Symphony for the City of the Dead.
  • Title I voted for in the Undead Poll: I Crawl through It
  • Eliminated title I most want to see come back from the dead: Goodbye Stranger.

Yes, this is literary March madness indeed.

BlogTalk: Contenders for the Battle of the Kids’ Books Revealed

by Sharon Kane

Did you know there’s a literary equivalent to March Madness, sponsored by the School Library Journal? Just as with basketball, fans can fill out brackets and follow the contest as contenders either win or get eliminated along the road to the championship. I have been following the Battle of the Kids’ Books (BoB) for several years, and this year I waited anxiously for the announcement of the sixteen selected contenders, which came today. I am excited about the wonderful variety in terms of genre, format, target age range, and topic. Diversity is well represented in both authors and characters. You can find the complete list and details about the competition here.

I have previously posted BookTalks about two of the contenders—The Boys Who Challenged Hitler and X: A Novel. I intend to add several reflections relating to other BoB titles over the next several weeks.

In Oswego, New York, where I work, several book clubs are preparing to participate in the 2016 Battle of the Kids’ Books. Sites include a middle school, a high school, an alternative high school (housed on my campus), and a public venue (book store or library, most likely). My graduate literacy education class will be discussing and writing about the books, and we are creating an online book club so that anyone can weigh in on their favorites or respond to other readers’ opinions. I’ll let you know how you can access that group once we get the site set up.

One of the things I like best about this annual program is that the judges (all respected children’s and YA authors) explain their rationale for sending a particular book on to the next bracket. These reviews are authentic examples of the kind of writing the Common Core State Standards emphasize. Each judge clearly states his or her stance and, using evidence from the text, defends that position. Some of the essays are literary works of art themselves! Essays from previous years are readily available on the official SLJ website. I consider the Battle of the Kids’ Books to be a teacher’s dream.

So, let the reading commence! And don’t forget to vote for the book you would like to bring back from the dead—yes, they have an Undead Poll, too.