Battle of the Books concludes rewarding year of explorations

The Cedar Falls’ Battle of the Books group, coached by librarian Abigail Hendrickson, qualified to compete in the Grand Battle competition in Marshalltown on April 27. Starting in September, the group competed year-round at the high school until the Grand Battle. “It’s just a blast. Power Hour, we bring our lunches and just talk about books,” Hendrickson said. 

This year’s set of books comes from several different awards, such as The Iowa High School Choice Award, the Prince Award, the Alex Award and the Newberry Award. “The books have a very diverse makeup. They choose books that appeal to all students, all-gender identities and all races. There’s fantasy, realistic fiction, romance; there’s everything,” Hendrickson said. 

The Battle of the Books group must read all 25 titles as a whole, however, not individually. 

To qualify for the grand battle, the group must take an online quiz as a team. 

Districts all over Iowa send groups from their schools to compete in the Battle of the Books. Of the 42 teams participating this year, 16 go to the Grand Battle. This year, CF provided two groups of six members to compete. Newton High School sent four teams to the Grand Battle, with three qualifying for the final round. “We now know we have to beat Newton next year,” she said.

The Grand Battle competition was a buzz-in live. Students had their own Chromebooks and had to answer the question individually if they buzzed in. “They’re just comprehension or trivia questions about all of the books. Whatever team answers or recalls the question, the fastest wins.”

At the Grand Battle, there were four rooms with four teams in each room. Working through an elimination process, each room did its buzz in, and the winner from each room moved on to the next round. Unfortunately, Cedar Falls got second place in each room, so they did not experience the final round. “We were a little disappointed that the team couldn’t act as a group to discuss the question,” Hendrickson said. 

The prize for the competition is an entire set of the books used for next year’s Battle of the Books, along with ten extra minutes with guest speaker author Ibi Zoboi. “To me, we already won. We were already there. It was great. We got to speak with Ibi Zoboi through zoom,” she said. 

To prepare for the Grand Battle, Hendrickson said the group created its own quizlets. She also said she made author quizzes. “We had taken a van full of students to a state championship meet. You know, I thought it would be crazy, in the end. Every single kid in the van had a book on the way there, and it was absolutely quiet. Here I was so excited, we all chuckled after, but everyone was just trying to prepare,” she said.
On freshmen orientation day, there was a booth to sign up for next year’s Battle of the Books. “We already have many freshmen who have signed up for next year. I mean, who knows, maybe we’ll send four teams like Newton,” Hendrickson said.

Junior Ella Hertz said she joined Battle of the Books in early April because of her friend’s encouragement and her love for reading. Since Hertz joined later in the year, she did not finish all of the books in this year’s set. “I have read La Furia, If These Wings Could Fly, No Exit, The Impossible First, The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh, We Hunt the Flame and Where the Crawdads Sing,” Hertz said. 

Although Hertz said she isn’t quite sure if they will qualify for the big competition next year, she plans on sticking with the team her senior year. “My favorite part of this season was the actual day we went to compete. We stopped at a Mexican restaurant that had really good food. At the AEA center the employees there had a really cute service dog, and we got to meet her,” she said.

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