March 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

SLJ’s 2014 Battle of the Books Is in Full Swing


A teen at Patrick F. Taylor Sci & Tech Academy in Avondale, Louisiana defending 2014 SLJ BoB contender Far, Far Away by Tom McNeal.

School Library Journal ‘s very own version of March Madness, our sixth annual Battle of the Kids’ Books (BoB) elimination contest between 16 of 2013’s best children’s and teens’ books, kicked off on March 11 and has been going strong for 10 consecutive matches. As Round 2 draws to a close tomorrow, March 26, the following is a recap of the Battle’s surprise victories, student-led celebrations, and fun quips from the Peanut Gallery.

This has been the year of the Mock BoBs. For the first time, the Battle Commander (BoB creators Roxanne Feldman and Monica Edinger) invited fans to participate in an virtual vote on which titles would move on in each round. The informal survey took place before the actual Battle commenced, giving book lovers an opportunity to weigh in on their predicted picks. Out of the 16 contenders, Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park and Elizabeth Wein’s Rose Under Fire emerged as the final leaders in the preliminary contest, with Rowell’s novel about two “misfit” teens falling in love in the 1980s taking the final honor.

Teens got a say on which books should advance during the Mock BoB taking place at Patrick F. Taylor Sci & Tech Academy in Avondale, Louisiana. Elizabeth Kahn, a library media specialist, introduced her freshmen book club, “Bookmarked”, to the event, and they hit the ground running. The students read all of the titles and have defended their choices’ literary merits, mock debate-style. And while, their decisions haven’t always matched the author judges’, the teens have passionately stood by their assessments. The second round of matches is taking place online, where kids will get a chance to vote based on the profiles created for each book by their classmates.

Some of the decisions that have stirred up discussion include Gene Leun Yang’s Boxers & Saints‘s defeat of Jaclyn Moriarty’s A Corner of White, decided by Yuyi Morales, which raised the issue of whether the books should be judged as single unit (since Boxers & Saints a two-volume work); Kate DiCamillo’s Flora & Ulysses succumbing to the “Newbery Curse,” in a contest judged by Sara Mlynowski; and Mac Barnett’s frank deliberation over Marcus Sedgwick’s Midwinterblood and Rita Williams-Garcia’s P.S. Be Eleven.

The first round of this year’s Battle saw many fan favorites go by the wayside and dark horses get ahead. And while all may not agree with all of the matches outcomes, the judges’ assessments have been lauded for their definitive analysis and even outright critique of each of the works. Horn Book‘s Roger Sutton, who last year judged the judges, praised this year’s roster for “being (relatively) tough”.

Highlighted in the Battle of the Kid’s Books blog, several fans shared their appreciation of the judges’ frank and deep comments.

Liz B caught up with Round One, Matches 3,  4, and 5. What she liked best about Match 5? “How much I laughed. And not from being shocked so laughing — as I did with Match 6, more on that later — but just because Angleberger is funny.”

The dirigible plum gets caught up too writing about the judges’ decisions, “ …what I love even more is reading a piece that reframes a book for me, that makes me think about something, see something, admire something, in a book that I hadn’t thought about or seen or admired before.”

Random Musings of a Bibliophile is “…loving the battle this year so much. I don’t love many of the books, and I don’t agree with all the decisions. BUT. The decisions themselves have been amazing.”  See her picks for Round Two here.


Fans can still comment on the results of each round over at our Battle of the Kid’s Books blog, download the illustrated brackets from the contest, and download the high-resolution versions (suitable for printing and display) of the original artwork, created by SLJ art director Mark Tuchman. For more ideas on how to set up a Mock-BoB, take a look at these tips curated by the SLJ staff.

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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.