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Finalists face one another at Washington County Free Library's Battle of the Books

March 16, 2013|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI | alnotarianni@aol.com
  • Sara Fletcher, 10, of Hagerstown, left, Tommy Inman, 10, of Martinsburg, W.Va., second from left, and Bekah Jonhnson, 10, of Martinsburg, W.Va., right, brainstorm an answer with Homeschool Hurricane team members Saturday during Washington County Free Library's Battle of the Books at Eastern Elementary School in Hagerstown.
By Alicia Notarianni/Herald-Mail Reporter

There were eight teams of fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders, each armed with a large pad of paper, a marker and everything they could remember about 20 books they had read.

Finalists who had been reading and practicing since November faced one another in a culminating showdown Saturday at Washington County Free Library’s Battle of the Books at Eastern Elementary School.

Jeff Ridgeway, the library’s head of children’s services, posed the questions.

“In the book ‘Al Capone Does My Shirts,’ how did Mr. Flanagan punish Moose for the laundry incident?”

“In the book ‘Whittington,’ the narrator says that the ancient Egyptian cats had rear paws that were the same color as those of Whittington. What color were Whittington’s rear paws?”

Teams of up to eight students seated in circles of chairs leaned in, whispered ideas and scrawled their final answers on their pads. One by one, the teams would present their responses, then wait for Ridgeway to announce the correct answer.

The team with the most correct answers to the 40 questions was the Boonsboro Elementary Magnetized Mob, a group of students from that school’s magnet program.

Magnetized Mob member Claire Seibert, 10, of Boonsboro, said no one on the team had ever competed in the competition, which Ridgeway said is in its 26th year.

“It was new to all of us,” she said.

Eighteen teams competed in this year’s program, Ridgeway said, registering and receiving a set of 20 issued books last fall. Public, private and home-schooled students were eligible to compete.

Under the supervision of an adult manager, each group read the books and completed two projects related to them — such as scrapbooks or dioramas — in February.

On March 2, teams competed in a written round of competition at Eastern Elementary School. Teams with top scores following the project and written round competed Saturday.

Claire said each of her team member’s mothers came up with questions about the novels to use during practice sessions. It never occurred to her that her team might win the competition until she learned they had made it to finals, she said.

“I am really happy. I’m so excited,” Claire said. “I’m, like, too happy to even stop smiling.”

Fran Gabianelli was Magnetized Mob manager. Gabianelli said she got involved because she “thought it would be a great experience for the kids.”

Second place went to the Homeschool Hurricanes, who had walked away with first the last two years. Lean, Mean Reading Machine took third place.

Susan McCarthy of Boonsboro managed home-school team Bouncing Bookworms. McCarthy said her son, Conall McCarthy, 10, and some of his friends “love to read.”

“This competition gives them a chance to be introduced to new books that they might not pick off the shelves, and it’s a lot fun,” McCarthy said. “It teaches them to work together and gives them a lot of chance to read and read more.”

Mary Baykan, Washington County Free Library director, said Battle of the Books allows students to compete “in an intellectual way.”

Ridgeway said he chooses a lot of Newbery Medal winners or honors books for the competition each year. He includes classics, books with varied protagonists and perspectives, and stories with multicultural themes, he said. Some of this year’s titles were “The Indian in the Cupboard,” “Yolanda’s Genius” and “One Crazy Summer.”

Ridgeway said the program began in response to seeing honors programs for athletes and musicians, but not for readers.

“We wanted to create a program to show kids that there is a program out there that they can shine in just by doing what they love best, which is reading,” he said.

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Battle of the Books winning teams

The following were the winning teams Saturday at the Washington County Free Library’s Battle of the Books at Eastern Elementary School:

• First place — Boonsboro Elementary Magnetized Mob (Melanie Carter, Gina Gabianelli, Alex Gibson, Connor Lawrence, Marianna Lawrence, Christopher Li, Maggie Mathews, Claire Seibert)

• Second place — Homeschool Hurricanes (Sara Fletcher, Tommy Inman, Bekah Johnson, Brynne Keller, Honor Martin, Declan Masek, Clair Volkening)

• Third Place — Lean, Mean Reading Machine (Ellie Bare, Peyton Blood, Claire Hahn, Emma Horne, Taylor Lowe, Izzy Prenger, Erika Robertson, Baylee Ward)

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