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Battle of the Books district competition held: Ketchikan Charter School team wins, will compete in state battle
JoNell Wallace, Schoenbar Middle School guidance counselor, listens to a challenge by Schoenbar Middle School students Pennie Anderson, Malia King and Kelsey O'Brien, during the Battle of the Books competition on Friday at Schoenbar Middle School. They were trying to convince her that their answer was right, even though it wasn't the correct answer the judges were looking for. Staff photos by Alaina Bartel

Daily News Staff Writer

In what book does Saturday night smell of biscuits and burning hair? Some of the teams at the Ketchikan School District's Battle of the Books competition on Friday at Schoenbar Middle School could answer that question.

The answer was “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson, which was one of 10 books that seventh- and eighth-grade students from Revilla Blended School, Schoenbar Middle School and Ketchikan Charter School were supposed to read to do well in the competition.

They had all school year so far to read the books, and some of the students reread them. Other books they read included “Awkward” by Svetlana Chmakova; “Iron Trial” by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare; “Secondhand Summer” by Dan Walker; and “Chains” by Laurie Halse Anderson.

In total, seven teams were competing to take the district champion title to move on to the state competition held by the Alaska Association of School Libraries on Feb. 27 in Anchorage. Teams from across Alaska will be teleconferencing into the event, and a mediator will be asking them questions from either Palmer or Anchorage.  

Three teams from SMS competed in the district event: The Brainy Bunch, Golden Readers and Nameless. One team from Revilla, the Revillians, competed; and three teams from KCS competed —  including the Question Marks, Mythical Creatures and the Flying Penguins.

Mythical Creatures — with students Abby Hancock, Trinity Perkins and Kiara Weber — ultimately won the battle, garnering 88 points in total. Second place was a tie with Nameless and the Brainy Bunch both scoring 80 points.

Third place was also a tie with the Flying Penguins and the Revillians both garnering 40 points; and fourth place was won by the Golden Readers with 32 points. In fifth place was the Question Marks with 24 points.

The students get eight points for each question they answer with the title and author correctly; and if they just get the title correct and not the author, they're awarded five points, according to Kerrie Deal, SMS librarian.

Each team had three members, and they had to work together to answer the question that was put before them. If they didn't answer the question correctly, they could do what's called a challenge; where they try and convince the judge that the book they chose was the correct answer.

For example, a question could be, “In what book does a character struggle to meet a deadline before lunch?” The announcer has one book written down that is the correct answer, but the students could have argued that a character from a different book lives through the same type of situation.

There were many challenges held almost every round, and many of the teams were awarded their full points for convincing the judges. The judges were Julie McFarland, KCS principal; and JoNell Wallace, SMS counselor. Asking students the questions was retired teacher, Roxanne Abajian.

Although it was a competition and the teams took the event seriously, it seems that many of them are in the tournament because of a love of reading.

Lillian Haines, a member of the Golden Readers, said her favorite book to read for the competition was “I Lived on Butterfly Hill” by Marjorie Agosin.

“It was my favorite book because it was a really interesting story and the writing kind of flowed and kind of kept you wanting to keep reading, and it's got a lot of information,” Haines said.

Pennie Andersen, a member of the Brainy Bunch, also said her favorite was Agosin's book — because she can relate to it. Andersen moved to Ketchikan about five years ago, and said the character in the book mirrored herself.

“I feel like it kind of showed me, like how I am a little,” Andersen said. “It's about a girl that moves to a new town, and that's kind of how I felt when I first moved here.”

Agosin's book was a big hit for these middle-schoolers. Kelsey O'Brien, a member of the Brainy Bunch, said it was her favorite book, as well. She said the book was “powerful.”

Torrence Johnson, a member of the Golden Readers, said “Stormbreaker” by Anthony Horowitz was the most enjoyable read for her.

“It's about this boy named Alex and his uncle seriously goes missing,” Johnson explained, “and apparently his uncle died. He has these people show up to his house and like basically kidnap him. Then he has to become a spy in order to stop a millionaire from killing all of these children.”

There may only be one team that's competing at the state level  — but there's also now dozens of students that have amassed an impressive reading list in such a short amount of time.