May 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Tips for Creating a “Mock BOB” | SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books

EH_BoB_2_12_14_MockBobWhether you’re hearing about SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books (BOB) for the first time or have been a longtime fan of the virtual elimination contest that pits the best kids’ books of the year against one another, the online tournament can be a fun way to engage students, while increasing their literacy skills. The following mock-BOB projects will yield some tips for creating your own.

Under the direction of Donna Steel Cook, district library director and high school teacher-librarian, Central High School in Pollok, Texas incorporated the 2013 BOB contest into a program to support reading. Cook introduced the event to her high schoolers as a March Madness tournament. Dropping the “kids” from the moniker, she promoted it by visiting the schools 27 English classes. The bracket display she set up on a window at the school, along with a slide show she created for school library’s website, drew the attention of the school principal. He got involved by making daily announcements on each round’s results.

For each BOB match, Cook set out a table display for the competing books with voting boxes and a picture of the judge for that bracket. Students then took a shot at predicting the winners. At the end of each day, Cook tallied the predictions and with the help of her senior aides, updated all the screensavers on the workstations in the library with the latest results. Cook also sends the English teachers regular emails on BOB updates. Those students who correctly predicted the winning books for each match received small awards.

For the first time, Elizabeth Kahn, a library media specialist at Patrick F. Taylor Sci & Tech Academy in Avondale, Louisiana, plans to entice her freshmen book club into participating in the 2014 BOB. Former SLJTeen reviewers and members of YALSA’s Books for Young Adults teen readers, these students, who attend a nationally ranked high school, are always looking for ways to discuss titles.

“My kids get very busy, but they love having projects and I like having projects for them to do,” Kahn told SLJ. They will be divided into four groups, with each group reading four titles and then debating their literary merits, mock debate-style. Kahn will also incorporate the contest into YALSA’s Teen Tech Week, which will be taking place March 9-15.

Third grade teacher Colby Sharp will also be participating for the first time in this year’s BOB. Since many of the titles are beyond his students’ reading level, Sharp will be implementing the BOB trappings to most recent books that have received a Caldecott mention, including this year’s winners. He and his teacher partner will be running parallel tournaments starting with the same contenders, but in Sharp’s class each student will be take on the role of “author judge” for the matches. The other group will be deciding via a consensus.

All of the children will be creating their own set of evaluation criteria, and they will share their opinions via the class’ Twitter, blog, and Facebook accounts and they might even call on the school principal as a guest judge. “We recently did a mock Caldecott, and had a lot of fun with it. This will be a new way to expose them to new books,” Sharp says.

At Penguin Young Readers, a papier-mâché trophy of goodies awaited the person who correctly guessed the most accurate outcomes in the competition. In a tradition that began five years ago (at the time, among only four editorial assistants), 20 staffers pooled together bags of candy to be part of the publisher’s in-house BOB celebration. Participants fill out a BOB bracket with their predictions, including their Undead Pick. A designated score keeper keeps a tally of each person’s correct predictions and forwards results to the chosen commentator who summarizes real-BOB the verdict, the scores, and anything else that piques his interest. In their Harry Potter-esqe scoring system, correct first round predictions are worth two points, in the second round four points, and in the third round eight points. A correct Undead pick garners 12 points and if someone is lucky enough to guess the overall winner, that person is awarded 16 points.

Other ideas for Celebrating BOB:

Download 2014 BOB Brackets to keep track of winners.

Download 2014 Battle Plan as a fun visual for your library.

Fill out your predictions before March 10 for a chance to win a prize.

Create Book Displays. Check out the Provo City Library’s awesome display.

Participate in the Undead Poll (February 26-March 9), in which fans can vote for their favorite contenders. The book that receives the most votes will resurrect from the dead to compete in the final round.

Comment, Tweet, Blog and you might make it on the Peanut Gallery. The event’s hashtag is #sljbob.


Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz ( is School Library Journal's Reviews Team Manager and SLJTeen newsletter editor. She has her MLIS in Public Librarianship with a Certificate in Children’s & YA Services from Queens College, and can be found on Twitter @sdiaz101.