Kids wield wit at Battle of the Books

March 21, 2009

HAGERSTOWN -- You could have heard a pin drop.

Eight groups of eight children -- all fourth- through sixth-graders -- sat in a circle of cafeteria-style chairs facing one another.

"In the book 'Shades of Gray,' what did the Yankee soldier make the little basket from that he gave to Meg?" the voice from the microphone asked.

The teams of students, visually separated by bright-colored T-shirts, leaned into their groups, vigorously whispering until the designated writer finally scrawled a black ink answer across a big, floppy pad of paper.


"Time," the timekeeper announced. She then proceeded from circle to circle with a handheld microphone as one student from each group held up the paper and announced an answer.

Ultimately, the Bizarre Book Battlers Are Back Again from Boonsboro Middle School produced the most correct answers Saturday at the Washington County Free Library's 23rd annual Battle of the Books. Seventeen teams were whittled down to the top eight March 7 during the battle's written round at Eastern Elementary School. The top teams reconvened Saturday in the school's gymnasium while a group of about 150 people sat quietly observing.

Jeff Ridgeway, head of the library's children's department, said the challenge is open to all children in Washington County within the designated grade levels, though this year, all of the participants were public school students. The teams had three months to read 20 specific books, Ridgeway said. During Saturday's final round of competition, teams were asked 40 questions pertaining to the books.

"I think the questions were a little harder this year," Ridgeway said. "(The students) did a great job answering them."

The Bizarre Book Battlers Are Back Again won first place for the third year in a row. The team has replaced just one member last year and one this year. Adriana Bushko of Keedysville is the team manager, and her daughter, Priscilla, 12, a sixth-grader, is a member of the team.

Adriana Bushko revealed her team's strategy.

"Each of the 20 books was read by two kids," she said. "And we had one expert for each book."

Adriana said the students met twice a week for several hours after school, plus a couple of times on weekends to study and practice.

Team member Julia Muller said she competes every year simply because she loves reading. Her father, Luke Muller, said he thinks the contest is great for Julia.

"It's intellectual," he said. "It's good for her brain."

The award for second place went Chapter Raptors, a team from Boonsboro Elementary School.

Two other teams from Boonsboro Elementary School -- Speed Readers and A Long Way from Chapter One -- battled it out for third place. Following the 40 questions, they had scored an equal number of points. Ridgeway announced there would be a "sudden death" tiebreaker, and the first team to correctly answer a question the other team missed would win the title.

Eleven questions later, after answering the same questions correctly and incorrectly, Ridgeway decided it was time to declare a tie for third.

"After 11 questions, I decided that was enough," he said. "If they both had the same answers after that many questions, they both deserved a title."

The following are the results from the Washington County Free Library's 23rd annual Battle of the Books held Saturday at Eastern Elementary School.

o First place -- Bizarre Book Battlers Are Back Again from Boonsboro Middle School (Priscilla Bushko, Julia Muller, Savannah Plemmons, Matt Scalese, Alyssa Selin, Aidan Thaggard, Emily Thompson, Iris Wechsler)

o Second place -- Chapter Raptors from Boonsboro Elementary School (Brett Duft, Kendall Harne, Molly Jones, Emma Lang, Cameron McClellan, Aldan McLane, Hazel Wechsler, Ashley Williams)

o Third place (tie) -- A Long Way from Chapter One from Boonsboro Elementary School (Leif Haney, Catherine Hawfield, Abbie Jones, Colin Mannix, MacKenzie Pererak, Kaitlin Ridenour, Alison Sikes, Ana Solberg)

o Third place (tie) -- Speed Readers from Boonsboro Elementary School (Nick Conway, Ryan Eikens, Isaiah Elzie, Michael Hershey, Amber Kennedy, Jacob Main, Zane Poffenberger, Hailey Sarnecki)

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