February 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

SLJ 2017 Battle of the Kids’ Books Contenders Announced

BOB-KidsLogo2017March may be synonymous with three-pointers to many people, but here in the children’s book world, we’re all about BOB. Now in its ninth year, School Library Journal’s Battle of the Kids’ Books—affectionately known as BOB—brings together kid lit fans from classrooms, libraries, and publishing houses across the country to debate each of the contender’s literary merits, design, and overall appeal.

Sixteen of 2016’s best books for young people are being paired off in a series of one-on-one contests, March Madness style. This online elimination competition will pit the year’s most acclaimed titles for children and young adults against one another in matches. The panel of judges, consisting of some of the most esteemed authors in the field, will decide the contenders’ fates in this winner-take-all tournament. Each author (very closely) reads two books, and then decides which one advances to the next round. It ain’t easy. They must assess a range of works: nonfiction and fiction, children’s and teen novels, historical fiction and contemporary titles (and, for the first time, picture books). They ultimately have to designate one as the “best,” even from among books of different genres.

Among the picture books that will be vying for the title are Carole Boston Weatherford’s Freedom in Congo Square (little bee); Ashley Bryan’s Freedom over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Bks.); Sherman Alexie’s Thunderboy Jr. (Little, Brown); and Julie Fogliano’s When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons (Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks.).

But this year’s judges—to be revealed individually as the battle unfolds, starting on February 6—are up to the task. Past judges have included three National Ambassadors for Young People’s Literature: Jon Scieszka, Katherine Paterson, and Walter Dean Myers; Newbery Award winners Lois Lowry, Laura Amy Schlitz, and Clare Vanderpool; and New York Times best-sellers James Patterson and Jennifer L. Holm.

The battle officially launches Monday, March 13, with the 16 titles having been published on January 18. On Friday, March 31, the victor will be announced.

Fans can take part in the action by voting in the virtual Undead Poll. If a book is voted off early, it still can compete in the last round if it came out ahead during this Zombie Round. That voting opens March 2 and closes Sunday, March 12, the day before the first match. The “Closer,” or last judge, will choose the grand prize winner from among the Zombie Round winner and the last two books left standing.

The 2016 Closer, Ann M. Martin, had the daunting task of choosing among Rita Williams-Garcia’s Gone Crazy in Alabama (HarperCollins/Amistad), Brian Selznick’s The Marvels (Scholastic), and Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona (HarperCollins/Harper Teen), with The Marvels victorious when the dust settled.

BOB is the brainchild of Monica Edinger and Roxanne Feldman, educators at the Dalton School in New York City, and Jonathan Hunt, the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education (and SLJ’s “Heavy Medal” blogger). Inspired by The Morning News’s Tournament of Books, SLJ’s BOB launched in 2009 as an engaging way to celebrate children’s literature.

The process began months ago, with BOB’s Battle Commander winnowing the vast field to devise the list of contenders. Then, each of those worthy competitors was assigned a judge by SLJ editors. Adding to the fun is a series of whimsical illustrations created by SLJ’s own creative director, Mark Tuchman, which cleverly play on each title’s plotline.

From this stellar field of work, which book will emerge with the crown? We’ll just have to wait and see.

This article was published in School Library Journal's February 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Christina Vercelletto About Christina Vercelletto

Christina Vercelletto is School Library Journal’s former news editor. An award-winning writer and editor, Vercelletto has held staff positions at Babytalk, Parenting, Scholastic Parent & Child, and NYMetroParents.com.

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