BotB: TM

Fawn Mountain Elementary School sixth graders Ian Merrill, Jesse Taylor and Bryant Marquez react to their challenge answer being accepted by the judges panel, which moved them into first place in a tie-breaker bonus round against Tongass School of Arts and Sciences and Point Higgins Elementary School during the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District fifth and sixth grade Battle of the Books on Friday at Kayhi Auditorium. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

After local third- and fourth-graders competed in the annual district-level Battle of the Books competition, it was time for fifth- and sixth-graders to test their own skills.

Friday was the second and last day of the district-level battle of the Battle of the Books, a program sponsored and hosted by the Alaska Association of School Librarians.

The program encourages kids in kindergarten through high school to challenge themselves to read often and enjoy diverse materials.

Battle of the Books releases a list of books for each grade bracket. Students are given most of the year to read and study the books, before competing in game-show style contests to test their understanding and recollection skills.

This year, the fifth- and sixth-grade reading list consisted of 12 titles, both nonfiction and fiction. The books included “Amina's Voice” by Hena Khan, “Ban This Book” by Alan Gratz, “Because of Mr. Terupt” by Rob Buyea, “Diamond Willow” by Helen Frost, “Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers” by M.K. Reed, “Fish in a Tree” by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, “Flying Lessons and Other Stories” by Ellen Oh, “Jake the Fake Keeps it Real” by Craig Robinson and Adam Mansbach, “Night Gardener” by Jonathan Auxier, “Real Friends” by Shannon Hale, “Space Case” by Stuart Gibbs and “Strange Case of Origami Yoda” by Tom Angleberger.

The battles begin at the school level. Each school's winning team was sent to the district battle that took place on Friday in the Ketchikan High School auditorium.

All competitors in Friday's battles were fifth- and sixth-grade students. Each team could have up to four members. One member was “the spokesperson,” who would answer into the microphone, a second student was “the writer,” who jotted down the answer on a whiteboard, a third competitor was “the thinker,” who deliberated on the answer, and a final member was an alternate, who could replace a team member in the second half.

Fawn Mountain Elementary School was represented by “The Moonkeys,” a team that included Jesse Taylor, Ian Merrill and Bryant Marquez Morales.

“The Dream Team” of Tongass School of Arts of Sciences consisted of Meg Thomas, Lily Pader, Bella Brown and Minh-Tu Vo.

Ketchikan Charter School's Adeilyn Reeve, Jonny Welty, Brennon Greer and Bryan Orihuela competed as team “KCS-ABJ.”

Pt. Higgins Elementary School's team, named “Hocus Pocus,” featured Chloe Larna, Kate Thomas, Eve Roskam and Bristol Albrant.

Team “Two Girls and a Boy” of Houghtaling Elementary School included Simon Alderson-Bell, Addison Mortenson and Sherlett Dimayuga.

As with the third- and fourth-grade district battles, the event was hosted by Fawn Mountain librarian Beth Brandt-Erichsen.

As Brandt-Erichsen settled herself behind the announcer's podium, the audience quieted their cheers and listened to an explanation of the rules.

Brandt-Erichsen explained that she would read a question and set a timer for 30 seconds. The teams had until the time ran out to answer the question, writing down at least a key word from the book's title and the last name of the author on their whiteboards. Then, Brandt-Erichsen would call on each team's spoksperson to say the answer out loud into a microphone.

The competition would continue in this manner for two rounds of eight questions.

With spotlights trained on the teams and a hushed audience watching in anticipation, Brandt-Erichsen asked the first question.

“In which book does a character visit the zoo while wearing pajamas?”

All five teams were incorrect. While the students believed the answer was hidden somewhere in “Flying Lessons and Other Stories,” “Jake the Fake Keeps it Real,” or “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda,” Brandt-Erichsen revealed that the answer could be found in “Space Case” by Stuart Gibbs.

The teams turned down the opportunity to challenge the judges in their ruling.

Brushing off a difficult beginning, the teams all bounced back to correctly answer the next question — “In which book are the differences between alone and lonely explained?”

The first round continued to be exciting, with some questions dipping into obscurity (“in which book does a canvas sock rattle and clank when moved?”), and others referencing unique plot elements (“in which book is a character's collection taken for the Smithsonian?”)

Teams began to challenge Brandt-Erichsen and the judges, sometimes going head-to-head. A challenge gives a team the chance to spend two minutes flipping through a book, searching for the page number that identifies a passage that proves their answer is correct.

The first challenge came not even halfway into the first round.

“In which book is every second of a trip like a walk off the gangplank?”

Ketchikan Charter School and TSAS both decided to challenge the question.

Brandt-Erichsen accepted the decision, and distributed copies of books to each team.

“So, after you have your board ready, and then as you find things that you think will answer the question, be writing those page numbers down on your board,” she instructed the teams.

A timer was set and the teams waited patiently for the signal to start fervently turning pages.

“You may begin,” Brandt-Erichsen said.

After their time was up, the teams walked across the stage to present their cases to the judges.

“The judges want to compliment you on some really great discussions, but they're going to decline both of the challenges,” Brandt-Erichsen said.

At halftime, Brandt-Erichsen announced the standing scores after a brief break.

After the first round, Fawn Mountain stood in first place with 56 points. Pt. Higgins had claimed second place with 48 points. TSAS was a close third with 40 points. Ketchikan Charter School and Houghtaling both ended the round with 16 points.

The second round lasted for another eight questions.

At the end of the round, Brandt-Erichsen tallied the final scores while the competitors and the audience waited quietly.

“We have a three-way tie for first place, and so we are going to have to continue on with a tie-breaker round,” Brandt-Erichsen announced.

At the time of the tie, Houghtaling claimed fourth place with 76 points and Ketchikan Charter School came in fifth place with 56 points.

The three-way tie was between Fawn Mountain, Pt. Higgins and Tongass School of Arts and Sciences. All three teams had earned 104 points.

A tie-breaking round means that the teams will have 15 seconds to answer questions in a sudden-death round. The first team that correctly answers a question will win the entire battle.

“In which book must everyone have snow pants, hats, gloves and boots?'

All three teams correctly answered that the question related to “Because of Mr. Terupt” by Rob Buyea.

A second tie-breaking question was read aloud.

“In which book does a character call for help after an old evil rises in the north lands?”

Fawn Mountain and Pt. Higgins answered that the correct book was “Real Friends” by Shannon Hale.

TSAS countered that the answer was “Diamond Willow” by Helen Frost.

Brandt-Erichsen said that the right answer was “Real Friends,” a statement which was unsuccessfully challenged by TSAS.

TSAS' elimination from the tie-breaker round of questions left “The Dream Team” in third place with 112 points.

A third question was posed to the remaining teams from Pt. Higgins and Fawn Mountain.

“In which book do characters decide on a shared secret, without even talking to each other about it?”

Both teams were incorrect, and Fawn Mountain decided to challenge.

The challenge presented by “The Moonkeys” was upheld by the judges.

Pt. Higgins' final score was 120 points, earning team “Hocus Pocus” a second place spot.

“The Moonkeys” of Fawn Mountain were declared the first place winners, and will represent Ketchikan's fifth- and sixth-graders during the state-level Battle of the Books competition later this month.

“I think they're really excited,” Brandt-Erichsen said about the team. “They're just spending their extra times in here (Fawn Mountain library) reading and they're excited.”

The Fawn Mountain fifth- and sixth-grade team will attend the competition telephonically. In the state-level battles, rounds last for 16 questions.

The state-level battle will take place on Feb. 27.