Anne Stanton: This battle is one for the books – Traverse City Record Eagle

When the call went out for Battle of the Books teams last fall, a young fourth-grader joined up with trepidation. Reading wasn’t easy for her, but the pull of her friends proved irresistible.

Two boys joined, too, with the caveat they would only tackle two books on the reading list. That was all that was expected, their coach Christy Shore encouraged them.

Battle of the Books is a relatively new National Writers Series program for area fourth and fifth graders. Each team reads 10 books and competes with other teams to answer questions about them. Now in its second year, the battle doubled in size to 48 teams, thanks to the efforts of project leader Marcy Lindberg and a core of amazing volunteers.

All 48 teams arrived at Scholar’s Hall at Northwestern Michigan College last Saturday to compete, most wearing grin-getting costumes. There was the Nerd Herd, the Bookie Monsters, and The Pirates of the Care of Readin’. The Grammar Cops wore shirts embroidered with their officer and team names and sewn-on Traverse City Police Department patches. Win or lose, they would celebrate with donuts!

Some of the questions were tough and detailed, the others easier.

“The highlight of that battle was when the little girl knew an answer that no one else on her team knew,” Shore said. “She squirmed in her seat, ‘Oh, oh I know this! I was holding my breath, and the whole group looked at one another. And she got it! She was over the top beaming. It was the crowning moment for this kid. Watching her evolve was one of the most beautiful parts of working with that group.”

And the two boys who insisted they’d only read two books each? One ended up reading four, the other is now reading his seventh.

Coach Stacy Farrell said she watched strangers become friends as each member of team went through an amazing transformation. One shy child didn’t speak to her for the first month, but in the end, performed flawlessly as captain.

“Another had such unwavering commitment to her books that she dedicated one hour every day to practice, never missed a meeting, took feedback like a champ and used it to improve her performance each week.

Farrell said she grew also much closer to her daughter as they snuggled reading the “False Prince” trilogy together.

Coach Kate Greene said her team learned the lesson of not judging a book by its cover. A book on polio, “Small Steps,” was the least anticipated but ended up as the team’s hands-down favorite. They also learned not to judge each other.

“As they read together and grew to become friends, they dispelled the first impressions they had of each other.”

The final battle will be held this Sunday at the City Opera House with bestselling author Gordon Korman, who will speak, hand out team trophies, and sign books for the public at 5:30 pm. For more information, please go to

Anne Stanton is the executive editor of the National Writers Series, a nonprofit dedicated to hosting great conversations with the country’s top authors and building the creative writing skills of youth.


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