Franklin County fifth-graders spent months reading to prepare for Wednesday’s annual Battle of the Books showdown in the gym at Hearn Elementary.
At the end of the single-elimination tournament, Hearn came out on top among the district’s six elementary schools, edging some tough competitors from Collins Lane Elementary.
Working in teams of four with two alternates, the kids buzzed in for a chance to answer 60 questions per match about the books they read as their classmates cheered them on.
Hearn team captain Olivia Hagg, 11, said her teammates tried to read as many books as possible from the list of 25. They used flash cards to study the details of each novel.
“You have to know some background on all of them, things like the plot, characters, key words, and that sort of thing,” she said.
Olivia said she liked all the twists and turns of “A Tale Dark and Grimm” by Adam Gidwitz, a novel that pulls Hansel and Gretel from their own fairy tale and drops them into other stories.
Overall, she preferred the books with a little fantasy – realistic novels are just too much like real life, she said.
“They introduced us to some really good books,” she said. “If you like reading, it can be a lot of fun.”
Wednesday’s tournament followed the fourth-grade battle Monday. Hearn won that one too. This is the 10th year for Battle of the Books, a national effort, in Franklin County.
Librarians Becky Nelson, of Hearn, and Carolyn Lynch, of Elkhorn Elementary, said the fifth-grade competition is their favorite. That’s when the books get a little meatier, the questions a bit tougher.
Lynch said Franklin County’s librarians work together to craft the list, steering clear of popular books like the Harry Potter series and Hunger Games. Kids will read those anyway, she said, and the goal is to introduce them to new books and authors.
They make their picks about a year before the tournament, so kids who want to read over the summer can get a head start.
Christine McGaughey, 11, has loved reading since she was 4, but she said Battle of the Books introduced her to some great stories. “Stepping on the Cracks,” a World War II novel by Mary Dowing Hahn, is now her all-time favorite.
The Westridge Elementary team captain read 15 books in all, and she’s ready with a thoughtful review of her favorites.
Leslie Connor’s “Waiting for Normal,” about a girl’s tumultuous childhood with a mother battling bipolar disorder, kept her interested with the drama, and she said “Crash,” a coming-of-age story by Jerry Spinelli was “good for all ages.”
Chloe Greenidge, 10, said the fantasy and action-packed books were her favorite. The Elkhorn Elementary team captain especially liked “May Bird and the Ever After,” Jodi Lynn Anderson’s novel about a young girl who falls into a lake and ends up in another world.
It was Chloe’s second year competing in Battle of the Books. Her team made a binder with summaries of each book to practice.
Abdullah Ateyeh, 10, said it took a little prodding from his teacher and father to finish 15 books before taking the test to make the Collins Lane team.
“At first I was going kind of slow, but then my teacher started encouraging me to read more, and I just jumped right in,” said Abdullah, his team’s captain.
“My school’s awesome and encouraging about us moving along and getting to maybe first or second place.”
Abdullah said he really didn’t like reading before he started Battle of the Books. He said he used to think it was “too tiring,” but he found that books with action, suspense and information about history or math kept him interested.
In particular, he liked “Number the Stars,” Lois Lowry’s novel about the escape of Jews from Denmark during World War II; “The Breadwinner,” a story of life under Taliban rule by Deborah Ellis; and “Trouble Don’t Last,” Shelley Pearsall’s story of Kentucky slaves who escape under cover of night.
“I’m honored that the teachers are helping us out, and the school is working as a whole to encourage the Battle team,” he said.
“The teachers are really great at helping kids read more and getting us to love reading.”