Battle of the Books - Frequently Asked Questions
presented by Howard County Library System and the Howard County Public School System
What is Battle of the Books?
Battle of the Books is an exciting academic competition for Howard County fifth grade students. Students form teams and read 16 books selected by Howard County Library System (HCLS) staff and Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) media specialists. The books cover a range of reading levels for all levels of readers. Students test their knowledge in a fun competition that challenges them to pay attention to the details.
Students, parents, and potential coaches are invited to a general information meeting on Monday, October 15, 2012 at 7 pm at the Miller Branch.
What is the benefit of participating in Battle of the Books?
Students gain knowledge and enjoyment from reading books and discussing them with others. In addition, they enjoy a fun experience of playing the actual Battle which emphasizes teamwork, good sportsmanship, and respect.
When is it?
Battle of the Books will be held from 7 pm to approximately 10:30 pm on Friday, April 19, 2013. Battle locations will be announced mid-November.
How do I register?
Each team will designate an adult to register the team. Each team may register only once. Registration begins Monday, October 22 at 9 am and ends November 2, 2012. The coach will be notified by November 8 via e-mail confirming their team's participation.
Who can participate?
Each team consists of five Howard County fifth graders who attend the same school and an adult coach (at least 18 years old).
Students should name their teams and are encouraged to dress in team shirts or other spirit wear at the competition.
If coaches wish to change their team's name and/or team members, they must do so by February 4, 2013 via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When do we find out which books to read?
The book list is available on the web site and in the Coach's Handbook that is accessible from the Battle of the Books page of the web site.
Where can I obtain the Battle books?
Each team will receive a set of books, courtesy of the Battle sponsors, which must be picked up at one of the mandatory coaches meetings on December 4 and 6, 2012 at the Miller Branch. Copies of the books are available to borrow at all Howard County Library System branches. Battle books are subject to the same circulation period (three weeks) and fines ($.20/day) as other library materials. If possible, books will be available in audio format, although some Battle questions will address visual details in the books, such as illustrations and photographs. Because cover art may differ between hardcover and paperback editions, no questions will be asked about book covers.
Who can be a coach?
A coach may be any adult over 18 years of age, such as a parent, volunteer, older sibling, scout leader, or teacher. Please note: A coach can serve as coach for only ONE team.
The coach or designated adult for the team must attend one of the mandatory coaches meetings offered on either Tuesday, December 4 or Thursday, December 6 at 7 pm at HCLS’ Miller Branch, even if s/he has served as a coach in previous years. In addition, the coach or designated adult must also attend one of the Battle logistics meeting on Tuesday, March 19 or Thursday, March 21 at 7 pm at the Miller Branch.
What does a coach do?
Coach's responsibilities include:
How is the Battle played?
Each team is responsible for reading the preselected list of books. Teams decide how to share this responsibility among team members and when to hold team meetings.
All teams will compete against one another on the floor of a school gymnasium. Each team will be located in a grid on the gym floor. Each team has 30 seconds to talk quietly among themselves, then a designated team “scribe” will write the team's answer on a sheet of paper. When 30 seconds are up, time is called, and all pencils must be put down. All answers are strictly from memory. No notes or books may be used. After answer sheets are collected and turned in to the scorekeeper's table, the moderator will announce the answer.
Will there be prizes?
Each member of the three top-scoring teams at each location will receive a gift card from a local bookstore, a medal, and a personalized team READ poster. The three top-scoring teams will receive a trophy for their school. In addition, prizes will be awarded to teams for Best Costume, Best Team Name, Best Team Spirit, and Best Civility (sportsmanship). Everyone who participates will receive a Certificate of Participation.
Does spelling count on the author's name?
First, about the spelling of the author's name. We treat that the same as for the title. You want to spell the author's name correctly, but if there is a minor spelling error, the answer would still be counted as correct. Just as with the titles, the scorekeepers need to know the intent of the answer.
Is it ok to have a poster propped on an easel during the Battle of the Books with our team name and a design (without using the names and authors of the books we are reading!)?
As far as the poster and easel, I don't think that would be a good idea, mainly because the space is limited in your team's square. If you want the poster to serve as your banner as you do the procession, that is fine, but you would need to find a way to keep it out of your way during the competition.
Missing an apostrophe in writing author or title, will the points be deducted or considered incorrect answer?For seating for the kids at the grids on the high school gym floor, can the kids bring cushions or exercise mats to sit on instead of directly on the floor?
No. Teams sit on floor mats provided by HCLS.
I have a 7th grader who is my assistant coach for our BoB team. He would like to attend BoB and I was wondering how he can be part of the program on April 19th?
He may participate in the processional and then go sit in the audience, but that would be the extent of his possible participation. The rules clearly state that the coach may be any adult over 18 years of age. Coaches do not sit with their teams during the battle. They sit with another team to monitor and encourage that team during the battle. There must be an adult coach present at the battle to sit on the gym floor. Without an adult coach on the floor, the team will be disqualified.
Can elementary school principals arrive with their school ID and attend?Tickets were distributed to administrators at each of the schools participating by our counterparts at HCPSS. They should have received them.
Just to confirm, the kids will NOT be asked names of chapters titles in the books, correct?
Actually, that is INCORRECT. There in fact, may be a question that says, "In which book is there a chapter called...." We have had a question like that in the past as well as questions about pictures that show up at the beginning of chapters. Actually, that is INCORRECT. There in fact, may be a question that says, "In which book is there a chapter called...." We have had a question like that in the past as well as questions about pictures that show up at the beginning of chapters.
Is is OK for Coach's to wear shorts the night of the Battle?
Absolutely! The gyms aren't air-conditioned.
Do kids/siblings need tickets to attend BoB tonight? If so, where could we obtain additional tickets?
They definitely need tickets. As an FYI, not that many young kids come to the event as it can be very boring for them. They wind up running in and out of gym especially because they cannot eat or drink there. The parents of those that do come are responsible for keeping them from being disruptive to the teams competing on the gym floor.
The Fairy Tale Detectives contains A Guide to Fairy Tales and The Sisters Grimm in the back of the book. Is it possible for questions to come from this section?
No, there will not be questions from the Guide to Fairy Tales....I believe that is something added to the paperback edition and not in the original book.
How do you handle pronunciation of words from other countries? Will the moderator read those words slowly? I notice Salsa Stories has a lot of Spanish words. Although there is a glossary in the back, I know from going to France that it is one thing to read a word and recognize it and something much harder to just hear the words spoken and recognize them.
The moderator reads all questions at a reasonable pace (not talking fast) so the students can hear the question. Part of knowing the book will require knowing the words in the book. If the students hear a word that they don't recognize, but recognize it as Spanish, that could be a good clue that the question refers to Salsa Stories. It is similar to if there would be a difficult vocabulary word.
Do the BoB questions reference story elements such as setting, theme, or genre. For instance, might you ask, "In what novel was there a theme about the importance of saving the rainforest?"
Yes, there could be questions about setting, theme or genre.
It was said that there would be no questions regarding the front and back cover of the book or the inside of the front and back cover of the book. I understand that a prologue or epilogue would be fair game, but what about copyright information, dedications, information about the author, acknowledgements, etc?
To answer your question about copyright information, dedications, information about the author, acknowledgements, etc. No, those items would not be included in the questions.
In Salsa Stories, would the recipes at the back of the book be items the kids could be asked (e.g. in what book are there recipes, or actual lines from one/more of the recipes)?
Yes, we could ask questions about the recipes.
In My Life as a Book, would the cute drawings on the side of the page be items the kids could be asked?
Absolutely! They are very much a part of that book.
In City of Ember, would any material from “What Toren Saw” be items the kids could be asked?
No, we would NOT include any material from "What Toren Saw". That is actually an excerpt from the next book in the series, The People of Sparks, so we would not include it in our questions. That is an example of something that is in the paperback edition that we gave out and not in other editions of the books.
In Single Shard, would any material from the epilogue portion (describes some fun facts about Korea) be items the kids could be asked?
The author's note does have interesting facts and I am 75% sure that it is in all versions of the book. However, since I am not 100% sure (I can't get my hands on a copy of the hardback version, since they are all checked out), I will say no, we will not ask questions from the Author's Note at the end. I can also say that there will not be questions about the Newbery Award acceptance speech at the beginning either.
In Fairy Tale Detectives, would any material from “A Guide to Fairy Tale and the Sister Grimm” portion (at the back of the book) be items the kids could be asked?
No. That is something that is only in the paperback version.
Could the kids be asked Tok Pisin words and phrases from the Tree Kangaroo, e.g. “Plenti taim mi lukim”? Could the kids be asked which book are there the following titles/headers/captions: A Big Stuffed Animal on a Stone Age Island, The Adventure Begins, An Amazing Island, Marsupial Mania, Partners in Conservation, The Hike to Heaven, Welcome to the Cloud Forest, Capture!, Fantastic Cloud Forests, Life in the Bush, Man Na Meri, The Crucial Test, Conservation at Home and Around the World, Lisa’s Advice for Kids, Tree Kangaroos Near You, Let’s Tok Pisin? Also, could the kids be asked material from “A Note from the Author” and “A Note from the Photographer” on the last page in Quest for the Tree Kangaroo?
Looking over your questions below, yes, they are all fair game for questions. Please remember, as mentioned in the coaches' meeting, really the only things off limits are the cover, inside flaps and info on the back cover of the book. Information about other books by the author and any pictures from the movie version of the book would also be not included. Glossaries, recipes, etc. are possible for questions. It is much less likely that we would ask questions from the author's notes, but it is a good idea to know it is there. Keep in mind that the teams are not asked to answer with specific details about a book, but need to recognize which book the question/quote is from.
I have heard differing answers and wanted to get clarification. Will the groups be asked questions about quotes from the front or back covers or books that specifically refer to reviews. For example, In which book does a review state "An enjoyable read-aloud"?
We very specifically said that there will NOT be any questions about the front or back covers of the books. We would definitely not ask a question about a review of a book. When we say that a question may be a quote from the book, we mean that the question would quote directly from the text of the book.
For the procession into the gym, would the teammates be allowed to wear masks? Their team name is related to wild animals and they thought they might like to make simple masks to look like wild animals.
I think that should be fine. Just be sure they can see clearly through the masks, so they are not tripping or running into things. I would highly recommend the masks come off during the competition.
What are the required or maximum size dimensions for the banner they will proceed in with?
I've confirmed with my notes that the maximum banner size is 22" x 28".
During the competition, when there is a question about a picture/illustration from a book, would the picture/illustration be shown in color, if that's how it appeared in the book, or will all pictures/illustrations be black and white?
Actually, the pictures are not shown at all. The pictures are described in the question, but not shown.
Do you have any web page with instructions for banner creation? Is there a restriction in size?
No, we do not have a web page with specific instructions for banner creation. You certainly want your team name on the banner. What is NOT ALLOWED are the titles of books, pictures of covers, author names, character names. The maximum size for a banner is 22" x 28" (28" x 22" is fine)
Missing an apostrophe in writing author or title, will the points be deducted or considered incorrect answer?
Question mark on at the end of a title "What's the big idea Ben Franklin?" is it mandatory or optional?
While we prefer students to write the title correctly, including punctuation, forgetting the question mark will not affect points.
The symbol":" between a title and subtitle, is it required when the subtitle is not written. "Big Kapok Tree:"?
No. The only reason for the punctuation is because of the subtitle, without the subtitle, there is no need for punctuation. That said, mistakes in punctuation will not affect the correctness of the answer.
Author name "DuPrau" has P capitalized. Will it consider incorrect if the letter "P " is not capitalized?
No. Again, we encourage the students to memorize and use the correct spelling, including capitalization. That said, incorrect capitalization does not affect the correctness of the answer.
Title "Fairy-Tale Detectives" has an hyphen between "Fairy" and "Tale". Is the symbol "-" mandatory.
No. While we prefer the students memorize the correct punctuation for the titles, forgetting the hyphen will not affect the correctness of the answer.
We just lost one of our participants. He moved and is now attending another school. Can we go forward with a team of just four students?
Yes, you can still participate with just 4 team members. That is one of the reasons we now require everyone to start with 5 players. Very often students will move or decide to drop out, so we want to make sure teams can still have a chance. (On the day of the battle, teams need a minimum of 3 players in order to participate.)
At my daughter’s school, they were told that short quotes and/or short passages are not asked because they’re too difficult. I hadn’t seen this mentioned in HCLS’ BOB materials. Could you clarify?
I'm not sure who at your daughter's school were telling the teams that, but it is INCORRECT. Please see the website and coaches' handbook for explanation of the types of questions asked. We mention these types of questions in the coaches' meetings as well. We may have even said that we use a lot of these questions because they ARE more difficult. But I will guarantee you that there WILL be direct quote and passages used as questions.
Will there be questions on the movie photos from The City of Ember?
Absolutely not. There will not ANY questions about the movie pictures from the book City of Ember. It was unfortunate that the copies that were available to us had the movie pictures. I very specifically pointed out in all of the coaches' meetings that those pictures would not be included.
I didn't see this spelled out anywhere - do the answers have to be author's last name first, i.e., Buckley, Michael or can it be Michael Buckley?
There is no specified format for the name of the author. Either way is just fine.
I understand they were told that short quotes (e.g. 4-7 words in length) are not asked but that longer quotes would be asked. I understand they were also told that short passages (e.g. 4-7 words in length) are not asked but that longer passages would be asked. Could you clarify?
It could be one sentence or it could be three. Bottom line, there could be a quote or passage taken from the book.
Are students told how much time is remaining in each 30 second allottment (e.g. either is the amount of time left announced over the speaker system or is there a large stopclock, etc)?
In the past, time was kept on the shot clock. Since not all of the high schools have that option available to us, we will be doing something different. I do not think they will know how much time is left. Since I just found out about this development, I will need to find out more information. We will have a confirmed answer by the logistics meetings next month.
Are the pictures from the books projected onto a large screen?
No. The pictures would be described, but not shown.
One of the students has a significant vision related problem. The student generally sits in the first row in class. Can any accommodations be made in such a situation (e.g. sitting close to the projector screen)? If the student isn't able to write the answer within 30seconds, is it best to have other teammates write instead?
I'm not sure if you are talking about the same student or not, but either way, the answers would apply to all. If accommodations are needed, we will make them. However, there is nothing to actually see during the competition. All questions are spoken...there is nothing to see on a screen or otherwise, so I'm thinking team placement won't be a factor. If this student (or anyone on the team) has trouble writing the answer within the allotted 30 seconds, I would recommend having someone else write the answers. There is no rule about who is writing answers. It can be the same person for the entire game or it can rotate. Not all students are required to be the writer.
One of the students asked what happens if they need to use the bathroom at times other than the break? (I'm guessing they'd be allowed to go, but their team won't have the benefit of the student's presence/knowledge while in the bathroom.)
We encourage the students to use the bathroom before the competition and during the break. They may also want to keep in mind that downing a lot of water will cause them to have to go to the bathroom more often. That said, we would allow them to go to the bathroom. The coach would need to signal a volunteer/staff person so the student could be accompanied to the bathroom. They would have to wait until the moderator is between questions and would not be able to return to the team until between questions. (Kind of like waiting to go back to your seat until there is a stoppage in play when at a hockey game.)
Students were told each piece of paper has to be labeled with team's name at the top - is that correct? Do they label all their pieces of paper before the questions are asked OR is this done during the 30 second timeframe allotted for each question?
Each team will be given papers that are already labeled with their team name and question number.
How many questions will be asked per round (the number of rounds is 4, right?)
There will be 12 or 13 questions per round. The last question per round is a bonus question and will be announced as such. The questions are numbered continuously, meaning in round 2, you do not start at question 1 again.
When does the 30sec clock start? After the completion of the second announcement of the question?
The 30 seconds will start after the question is read for a second time. The moderator will say something like "Time starts now".
Is there a penalty for encroaching into some else's grid? For example, if someone were to jump up (after a question say), or somehow move into their neighbor's grid, would you be disqualified? This would be a momentary encroachment, not sustained? How are we keeping others' in/out of the grids?
There is no penalty for encroaching in someone else's grid. No one should be jumping up (at any time), so that should not be a problem. As the coach sitting with a team, you are responsible for making sure the team stays within their space. I'm not quite sure what you are picturing, there is not really a lot of moving around. Maybe some wiggling in the space, but it is not as small as you are picturing.
Can the team wear a watch? This would be especially useful in the case there isn't a count clock available to see.
Yes, team members can wear watches. They may NOT use a cell phone or iPod to tell time. It must be an actual watch.
If there is a count clock visible, will it be counting up or counting down?
This year, there will not be a count clock visible. It will be different from past years, but I don't have all of the information just yet. We will go over how the time works in detail at the logistics meetings in March. When we did use the count clock, it was the gym's shot clock and it counted down from 30 to 0.
Just to be certain, the team is not penalized for a wrong answer, i.e. you don't get points taken away from you if you answer the question wrong?
If an answer is wrong, nothing happens. No points are taken away. A team can only earn points if answers are correct.
Can you jump up (or stand for a short time) during a round?
Can you mark out answers. Say, if you want to change your answer before the time is up, is it okay for you to mark out (with a slash) the wrong answer? Is there an official way for the answer to be marked out if you don't want that answer to be evaluated?
Yes. You can cross out the answer and rewrite a new one. You can erase, or cross out the old answer. If you want to circle the final answer, that is fine. There is no official way for the old answer to be marked out.
It's stated that the BOB locations are to be announced in Feb, I was just wondering if there's an expected date they expect to announce the location assignments?
With 180 teams, we are still getting through all of the information that teams were supposed to turn in. I cannot give you an exact date for the announcement of schools. When you get the reminder email about the coaches' meetings in March, that information will be included.
When you bring food to the cafeteria, where should it be left? Will there be tables set up in the cafeterias so that you can leave a bag with a name label on it?
I cannot give you a blanket answer for this. Each school is set up differently, so it would depend on which school you are battling at. Keep in mind that in some schools, the cafeteria is not right near the gym. The intermission is only about 15 minutes and going to the bathroom should be a priority. There may not be a lot of time for a lot of snacking. You want to make sure the students eat before the event. Since we will be at 4 locations, there are fewer teams at each location, which means the battle progresses more quickly. The entire event should be less than 3 hours, so hopefully, students can survive without a snack. If they must have one (or it is medically necessary), you will need to leave the snacks in the cafeteria. The school system has a very firm policy about no food or drinks (including water) in the gyms. There should be tables in the cafeteria set up, but you leave your stuff at your own risk. There will not be anyone watching items in the cafeteria.
Will there be any questions on any epilogue or prologue or introduction? Or names of chapters?
Yes, the epilogue, prologue, introduction and chapter names are all fair game for questions. The only exception would be an introduction that is unique to a particular edition of a book. If the introduction is part of the story, then it is fair game.
If the team writes the correct title but is only able to write only partial author correctly (either the first or last name) before time runs out, will this be awarded a point or no points?
If there is only a partial author name listed, no points are awarded. In order to get points, both the title and the author's (full) name must be correct. If they are running out of time, I suggest leaving the author's name blank, because then they'd get 1 point. (But ONLY if the author's name is blank. Again, if it is partially written in, no points are awarded.)
Can the team start writing the answer to a question while the question is still being read?
Yes, the team can start writing while the question is being read. HOWEVER, keep in mind that it is very important to hear the entire question in order to get the correct answer. They should not be talking while the moderator is reading the question. It is distracting to other teams and could cause others to not hear the entire question.
Does the assistant coach need to attend the logistic meeting? What role does the assistant coach play at the battle? Do they walk in with the team?
No, just as long as one of the coaches attends the logistics meeting. The assistant coach can proceed in with the team in the processional, but then they would need to move to the stands. The assistant coach would be a stand-in in case the coach gets sick or is unable to perform their mentoring duties the night of the battle.
Can the assistant coach take part of the costume from the kids after the procession? We are debating on a hat with decorations which might be kind of big.
That should be fine. However, it would be better not have large, bulky pieces of the costumes. There may not be a lot of space for the assistant coach to hold it in the stands, either.
Can the team have a clipboard or lap desk to write down the answers? Or do they have to write on the floor mat?
Yes, they will have clipboards to write on when writing the answers.
Wondering if it would be ok to have books/authors on the costume as long as the books/authors are not the ones in the contest?
Technically, it should not be a problem, but realistically, I wouldn't do it. I will be honest with you. In the past, we've had coaches take a very hard look at other teams costumes and sadly, ready to jump on anything they perceive as not following directions/rules. I would hate for there to be a conflict on a costume and have the students be upset about it. I think it would be better to steer away from any book titles or authors as a part of your team's costume.
Are there any specifications on the banner that the kids make?
The maximum banner size is 22" x 28". Also, you will need to, at minimum, include your team name. You may also want to include your school name. You may NOT include titles and/or authors of the books from the Battle.
Will the picture questions differentiate between the photographs in "Quest for the Tree Kangaroo" from the illustrations in the other books? For example, "Which book has a photograph of..." vs. "Which book has an illustration of..."? Or would a general question/term be used (ex. "Which book has a picture of...") and the kids should know it applies to both photographs and illustrations?
I think the best solution would be for them to think about both (illustrations and photographs) when they hear the word "picture". I can't promise that we would be sure to say one thing over another. If they hear the word illustration or photograph, it will be specific. If they hear the word picture, it could be either one.
Do I need to dress up to coordinate with my team? Is it allowed? Is it required? Also, what about the assistant coaches?
Coaches and assistant coaches are more than welcome to dress up to coordinate with their team. It is certainly allowed and absolutely NOT required.
Can the girls in my team wear the picture of a character (without names) on their costume? Also, can the cover pictures (without titles or authors) be on any costumes?
The answer is no, for both questions. I think it would be too iffy and quite honestly, I would hate for another coach or parent to point fingers about cheating (even though I know that is not your intent) and upset the girls. I would shy away from anything having to do with the books or characters for the costumes.
What is the size and other requirements for the team banner?
Maximum size of the banner is 22"x28". The banner must have the team name, and ideally the school name on it. The type of material used for the banner doesn't matter, but keep in mind that they will need to keep the banner with them on the floor.
Can the name of any of the characters or book titles be on costumes?
Absolutely NOT. That would pretty much amount to a giant cheat sheet. No book titles, character names or authors may be on the costumes, banner or anywhere else on the persons of team members or coaches.
Are electronic devices allowed at the event.
No electronic devices are allowed on the gym floor. Audience members in the stands can use them. However, they must use earphones so that no sound distracts the students on the gym floor.
I assume you are allowed to ask questions about illustrators? For example, could a question be "For which book is Margot Tomes the illustrator?"
Actually, we do NOT ask questions about the illustrator. Often, the illustrator is the same as the author, and we don't want to go down that path. Interestingly, we've had older books that were republished with a different illustrator and then the illustrator would depend on the edition of the book each team read, so that could make things confusing....So, bottom line is, NO, we will not ask a question about the name of the illustrator.
I was wondering if there was an update since last month's logistics meeting on how the time will be kept during the Battle?
The moderator will read the question 2 times. When s/he finishes reading the question the second time, s/he will say, "begin". The timekeeper will start the time on a stopwatch. When there is ten seconds left, the timekeeper will say "10 seconds". At the end of the 30 seconds, the timekeeper will ring a bell and pencils will need to be put down and the cards go up in the air for the runners to collect. The time will not be visible, however, the students pick up the rhythm of the 30 seconds pretty quickly.
Which door do we enter in the respective high school that we are attending?
Balloons and signage will direct you to the correct entrance to the battle.