GREENPORT—The Battle of the Books team from the Red Hook Public Library charged steadily through the regional contest Saturday, winning each of its matches until undefeated, it was declared Number One.
The team from the Staatsburg Library took second place, and . . . drum roll . . . Miss Amy’s Library for Peculiar Children, the team from the Kinderhook Memorial Library, came in third.
Some 20 teams took part in this year’s Battle, held in lecture halls at Columbia-Greene Community College. Team T-shirts and headbands abounded, along with names, such as the Beacon Bees, and parents intently watching the proceedings. Local libraries that also ran included Hudson, Tivoli, Pine Plains and NorthEast/Millerton.
Teams of five worked their way up the rankings. Like Kinderhook, several libraries sent teams larger than five, and rotated the members with each new contest. Girls made up the majority of most, but not all, teams.
The teams had spent the summer reading eight books selected by representatives from the participating libraries. The Miss Amy’s Library moniker is a take-off on one of the titles, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” by Ransom Riggs. Other titles, all chosen for readers in grades six through nine, were: “Icefall” by Matthew Kirby, “Dead End in Norvelt” by Jack Gantos, “The Scorpio Races” by Maggie Stiefvater, “Ninth Ward” by Jewell Parker Rhodes, “Legend” by Marie Lu, “An Elephant in the Garden” by Michael Morpurgo and “Liar & Spy” by Rebecca Stead.
Each contest had an emcee who read the 25 questions, a timer (the cut-off was 10 seconds), a judge and a scorekeeper. The teams’ MO seemed to be to hit their answer buzzer as soon as possible and hope that, consulting with teammates, they would come up with the correct answer in time.
Questions were along the lines of: “In which book does this quote appear: ‘Wear your best clothing when you are angry’” (“The Scorpio Races”).
Julie Hamrah Johnson and Todd Johnson, the parents of Phoebe Johnson, 11, attended in support of Phoebe and the rest of the Kinderhook team. Mr. Johnson, who teaches high school Spanish, had read all the books along with his daughter and said that he was able to answer most of the questions. Ms. Hamrah Johnson, project manager for a graphics agency, had got “engrossed with Steinbeck this summer” and read one Battle book.
“I told Phoebe that she looked like she was having fun during the first four rounds and now she looks tense,” Ms. Hamrah Johnson reported, “and she said, ‘It’s very stressful!’” Indeed, Kinderhook teammates in the audience clutched each other’s hands during the last round.
Amy Thiel and Matthew Pavloff coached the Kinderhook team. Ms. Thiel specially thanked the college and special programs coordinator Guy Apicella for donating the space and staff time.
Battle of the Books is a nationally recognized summer reading program for middle school students heading into grades six through nine. The program’s goal is to promote a love of reading in middle-school children, expose them to titles and authors they might not encounter in school and inspire teamwork and good sportsmanship in an atmosphere of friendly competition. Mid-Hudson Library Services member libraries have been participating in the Battle for 10 years. In 2004, six libraries participated. This year, 24 libraries hosted teams.