Battle of the Books…Make Way for Young Readers!

When I told my daughter Zooey that I was coaching her team for Battle of the Books she said, “Mommy, you HAVE to make it FUN!” I think that it was pretty easy to accomplish her wish because the books WERE so much fun. 

Battle of the Books is a school program that began in the 1930’s to encourage excitement in reading while exposing children to quality literature. During the competition the children are asked eighty questions that all begin “In which book” and the team has twenty seconds to agree on one out of twelve books. 

The Battle of the Books is a silent competition. Do you know how hard it is to keep kids under seven silent? I had six wonderful children on my team (grades kindergarten through second grade) and we did not /could not practice silent the whole time. It was a challenge to practice silent even for a little while. This is how we practiced most of the time, but we also practiced silently like this.   

Out of the twelve books we read, these four were some of my daughter’s favorites. 

A Bad Case of Stripes | David Shannon

A favorite book of many teachers to read at the beginning of the year to encourage their class to be happy with who they are and not follow the crowd. Poor Camilla must go through her “case of the stripes” as she worries about impressing her classmates. I think Camilla is a lot like my daughter…She loves lima beans but won’t eat them because her friends don’t like them. She tries on forty-two outfits before the first day of school. She doesn’t want to be embarrassed. “Everyone at school laughed at Camilla. They called her “Camilla Crayon” and “Night of the Living Lollipop.”

Gregory, the Terrible Eater | Mitchell Sharmat

Reading about Gregory had my team giggle like crazy. Gregory likes the kind of food you hope for your children to like…eggs, vegetables, fruit, and fish. Gregory’s parents want him to eat like they do…tin cans, boxes, tires, and mostly garbage. His parents take Gregory to see Dr. Ram who advises them to compromise. Mother goat says, “We have your favorite today. Vegetable soup. But there is one condition. You also have to eat the can.”

Make Way for Ducklings | Robert McCloskey

This beautiful book was given to me when I was a child. I used my 1979 copy for our team practices. This is one of those books that is a treasure to be passed down. The story continues to translate and be relevant to today’s young readers even though it’s more than seventy-two years old (written in 1941). I remember my mom reading it to me…it’s one of my favorite children’s books. I have fond memories of visiting Boston’s Public Garden and seeing the statue of Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings created by Nancy Schön. Barbara Bush gave a copy of the sculpture to Raisa Gorbachev in 1991 that can be seen in Moscow’s Novodevichy Park

Officer Buckle and Gloria | Peggy Rathmann

Poor Officer Buckle wouldn’t have an audience without Gloria who could be on Saturday Night Live. Safety is not interesting, but with Gloria, the children learn while they laugh. This story is in second grade’s basil reader and always brings lots of laughs. The children remember all the safety tips. Just the other week in my classroom, I stood on a swivel chair to reach for something in my cabinet and one of my students shouted out, “Mrs. Cooley, safety tip #77! NEVER stand on a swivel chair!” Oops!!

Here were the other eight books in the Battle of the Books K-2 competition:

Big Al | Andrew Clements

Click, Clack, Moo-Cows That Type | Doreen Cronin 

Ira Sleeps Over  | Bernard Waber

Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook  | Michael Garland

The Pain and the Great One  | Judy Blume

Zen Shorts  | Jon J. Muth

Zinnia and Dot  | Lisa Campbell Ernst

Leah’s Pony  | Elizabeth Friedrich

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