LCPS Battle of the Books – High School edition

I did the most fun thing earlier this month. I was a judge for the Loudoun County Public School’s Battle of the Bands. This county-wideprogram has groups from each high school challenging one another to facts found in ten books. I had to read the books prior to the Battle so I would be able to defend an answer in the event of a challenge from one of the teams. Here is my name plate (note the corected spelling):


Reading ten books was nothing compared to the work some of these groups put in. The captains from the winning team at Briar Woods High School had been reading the books and writing their own questions (to challenge themselves and their teammates) since May 2013. That’s right. They had spent 11 months preparing.

Being a judge was really fun because it made me read the 10 titles closer than I’d read a book in a while. However, the questions asked were so specific even I needed to consult the answer key. How the teams knew so much about each title was beyond me. For those of you interested in the titles, they were:

Each of these were first-time reads to me, save The Fault in Our Stars. I, once again, loved it and cried at multiple points, and cannot wait to see the movie. June. Come faster.

Full Body Burden scared the living hell out of me. Click above to read my review.

Back to the Battle…

I attended a semi-final battle at John Champe High School, whose post-Battle reception was TFIOS themed. They had a cool photo-booth area, quotes from the movie printed and hung around the room, and other Amsterdam- and travel-themed decorations. The final battle was at Briar Woods High School who chose the theme Rocketboys. The rocket ship decorations were cute, and they even had marzipan rockets atop their cupcakes. Super adorable! A big “THANK YOU” to the host librarian who bought us judges a gift and supplied us with coffee and snacks. How nice of her!!

I hope to judge again next year, or otherwise be a part of the event. It was a lot of fun, and the passion the teens had was really amazing to see. Their knowledge of the books was so much more than memorization. One teen – a teen from my days at the Rust Library, in fact – challenged us on an answer and totally owned it and we told him such. I was quite proud of him, as I was of all who participated.

Now…if only they had something like this for adults. Because otherwise, spouting out book facts makes me look like a pretentious lit nerd.


Sometimes, someone else says it better

I have an opinion on a great number of topics. (Ask my dear, dear fiance who has heard only a fraction of them in the past 3 years…and has a lifetime to hear the rest.) I can talk for hours on any topic if I know juuuuuust enough about it. (Though my favorite topics are books, libraries, exercise/fitness, nutrition/diet, and reality TV…yeah, I lead a thrilling existence.)

But sometimes, like now, I cannot say another word on a topic, because someone else has said it so well. Allow me to share with you an eye-opening article about the lack of diversity in YA literature. A few quotes that stood out to me:

Kids who are regarded by their peers and even by themselves as being somehow “other” need to see themselves in books to know that they are not alone. Such knowledge is not only comforting; it may be positively life-changing and -saving.


As Hazel Rochman wisely wrote in her landmark book Against Borders: ‘The best books break down borders.’

I have been following this topic for a few years now, but what can I do? Well, I can blog and write articles about it, in hopes that more people read about it and become outraged and force the publishing companies to open their eyes to the diversity of the nation’s (world’s) people. I am not sure if the article will be published (there was no guarantee when I submitted it), but I submitted an article to Virginia Libraries as part of their “Book as Art” theme for their Oct/Nov/Dec issue. I bring up this very topic in that article. So until that is published, read someone else’s opinion.

Book 24: Salvage the Bones by Jasmyn Ward


Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, winner of the 2011 National Book Award, is an incredibly well-written and developed story of a family of five in the fictional Bois Sauvage, Louisiana in August 2006, just days before Hurricane Katrina makes landfall. Motherless since the youngest’s day of birth, the very poor Batiste family gets by on the middle son’s pit bull fighting winnings and thievery, and handouts from others. Despite their misfortunes, they are a loving family…which is odd to say about a family that doesn’t hug, compliment, or boast about the way that my own family does. Despite the fights, it is very obvious that this family would kill for one another.They are endearing in a very unique way.

Ward did not write a book, she composed a novel. The writing is so beautiful and lyrical. Perhaps that is why the family does not come across as uneducated trash, as they likely do to the rich people that live on the water. She gave Esch the voice of a young Southern black girl, but the personality of a loving, observant young woman. At times I wanted to reach through the stereo and shake her and yell, “No! No! it’s a lie!” but she eventually learned on her own, and in that instance learned more than a good shaking could have taught her.

I am so glad I listened to this book on audio. The performer, Cherise Boothe, has a stunning voice that lent authenticity and warmth to a difficult story. But I am sad that driving kept me from writing down the dozens of passages I desperately wish I could recall. Luckily I did jot down a couple lines at stop lights and they are as follows:

“This is a hurricane eclipse, the wood over the windows, the inside of the house so dark that the white of Junior’s shirt is the brightest thing.” (I remember boarded-up windows from my own experience living in hurricane-prone areas. That is probably why this line resonated with me.)

“She is calm and self-possessed as a house cat; it is the way that all girls who only know one boy move. Centered as if the love that boy feels for them anchors them deep as a tree’s roots, holds them still as the oaks, which don’t uproot in hurricane wind. Love as certainty.”

I cannot wait to recommend this story to my fiance’s aunts. Their reading interests are across the board, so this should fit nicely on their To Be Read pile.