Book Brigade wins, uh, title

March 20, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

HAGERSTOWN - A way to figure out whether the students participating in the Battle of the Books on Saturday knew an answer could be found by studying their faces and posture.

Leaning forward excitedly, smiling and urging an answer to be written down? They probably knew the answer.

A bewildered look on their faces or slumping back in their chairs? Probably not.

Nine teams of fourth- to sixth-graders competed Saturday at the annual Battle of the Books competition at Eastern Elementary School.

Donna Parks, head of the children's department at Washington County Free Library, and Jeff Ridgeway, Parks' assistant, asked the teams questions about 20 different books that group members had had to read.

After each question was read twice, team members had 30 seconds to discuss it and write their answer on a large pad of paper. Once time expired, team members revealed their answers.


Forty questions were asked.

Books that had to be read included "Journey to America" by Sonia Levitin; "Rascal" by Sterling North; "San Domingo: The Medicine Hat Stallion" by Marguerite Henry; "Hello, My Name is Scrambled Eggs" by Jamie Gilson; "The Boggart" by Susan Cooper; and "Titanic Crossing" by Barbara Williams.

Team members, who wore matching T-shirts, sat in circles at the front of the school's gymnasium. Members of one team each carried a purple feather.

Boonsboro Book Brigade, from Boonsboro Middle School, finished in first place.

Boonsboro Ballistic Books, from Boonsboro Elementary School, finished in second place.

After a tie that required three tiebreaker questions, Old Forge Bookateers, from Old Forge Elementary School, finished in third place.

Todd Eckel's daughter, Haley, was on the winning Boonsboro Book Brigade team. He said she and her fellow team members met twice a week to practice for the competition.

"She likes to read anyway, so it's kind of an easy thing," he said midway through the competition.

Eckel said some of the other teams seemed focused on his daughter's team - which had four returning members from the team that finished in first place last year.

"Everyone's gunning for them, I think," Eckel said.

Parks said some books are used more than once, although eight of the books used this year were new. She and Ridgeway read them, write down questions and then ask each other the questions to see whether they're clear.

A variety of genres, including mystery, adventure, animal-related, science fiction/fantasy and classics, are selected.

Sometimes, fellow students of team members even are encouraged to read, thanks to the competition.

"I feel like it really helps kids get into reading," Parks said.

Beth Allshouse, a student achievement specialist at Smithsburg Middle School, was the manager of a team named Stupendous Magnificent Scholars.

Team members gave up their lunch period to meet daily to discuss the books and quiz each other on possible questions. They ate during the meeting.

Team members divided up the books so each member could be an "expert" on certain ones.

Allshouse said she read some of the books and knew about half of the questions asked about them.

"They're very difficult," she said.

She said the program is valuable.

"It's a great thing. It really is," she said. "There's not a lot of recognition for kids who like books."

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