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Battle of the Books … a competition where kids throw books at each other? Not quite. The Battle of the Books (BOTB) is an annual event held over the summer for kids entering grades six through nine. The very first BOTB was held Aug. 7, 1999, with six teams participating in the event that year.

Last year, the Marilla Free Library took the gold medal after competing against 32 teams from 19 different libraries in a fast-paced lightning round before 500 fans. All of the teams showed their quick wit by answering challenging trivia questions from five preselected books they read.

When asked to describe the atmosphere of the final battle, seventh-grader Julia Hartloff of St. Vincent de Paul School and second-year participant, said, “It is difficult to describe, it was … amazing.”

This year, for the 15th annual event, the books have already been selected. They are: “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman, “Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading” by Tom Greenwald, “Hero” by Mike Lupica, “Juniper Berry: A Tale of Terror and Temptation” by M.P. Kozlowsky and “Savvy” by Ingrid Law.

“There are certain requirements that a book has to meet,” said Kathleen Goodrich, manager of Children’s Programming at the Buffalo and Erie County Library, on how the books are chosen. “It has to be a certain length, must be a paperback (because we distribute the books to the participants and hard covers are more expensive), it cannot have been made into a movie before the battle, and the content has to be appropriate.”

Teams have already begun to form at most local libraries and for the next two and a half months participants dissect the books looking for tiny and occasionally obscure details. Committing these details to memory is the goal. All of the studying leads up to the Final Battle, which will be held Aug. 3, where teams go head to head at Erie Community College South Campus in Orchard Park.

Teams usually meet once or twice a week and study as much as they can. Marilla team members, for example, hold a marathon session a few days before the final battle to do as much cramming as they can.

Michael Green, a junior at Alden High School, four-year participant and three-year coach said, “My favorite part is probably the last hour of the marathon session because it is when everyone really realizes how much they know.”

When the day of the battle finally arrives, the atmosphere is thick with tension and excitement. Waiting to put all of their hard work to the test, teams quickly review their facts before facing off against another team and attempting to score as many points as possible. Teams are asked a series of preselected trivia questions from one book at a time in five rounds and have to answer correctly to gain a point.

After each team has completed its five rounds, the points are tallied and the two teams with the highest amount of points will go into an eight minute Lightning Round. Players “buzz in” and answer as many questions as they can in that time period. The team with the most points at the end of the eight minutes wins.

“Kids really enjoy participating in this event,” Goodrich said. “They read for the trivia and for the fun of it but it is just like any sport, you have to train.”

Cassidy Setzer, a sixth-grader at Iroquois said, “This is different because you are not shooting an arrow, or throwing a ball, but it is just as hard, with just as much practice.”

For more information, ask at your local library, call 858-8900 or visit www.BuffaloLib.org.

Kayla Reumann is a freshman at Holland High School.