Howard County Library System
Presented by the Josephine B. Scheffenacker Education Trust
Howard County Library System and the Howard County Public School SystemBattle of the Books logo


Who can be a coach?
Any adult over 18 years of age, such as a parent, volunteer, older sibling, scout leader, or teacher may be a coach. An individual may only coach one team. A team may opt to have an assistant coach as a stand-in, in case the coach is unable to perform their mentoring duties the night of the battle. Both the primary and assistant coach may participate in the opening processional; however, only one coach is allowed on the floor with the team. Without an adult coach on the floor, the team will be disqualified. Following the processional, the assistant coach must move off the floor and sit in the stands.

The coach or another designated adult MUST attend ONE of the mandatory coaches meetings held in the fall prior to the event. Even if a coach has participated in previous years, attendance is required. In addition, the coach or other designated adult must also attend ONE of the Battle's logistics meetings in the spring.

The fall mandatory coach meetings for the 2014 Battle of the Books will be offered on either December 2, 2014 OR December 4, 2014, 7pm at the HCLS Miller Branch (410-313-7750) where each team will receive their set of books.
The spring logistics meetings for the 2014 competition are scheduled for March 17, 19, OR March 26, 7pm at HCLS Miller Branch (410-313-7750)
If coaches wish to change their team's name and/or team members for the 2014 competition, they must do so by February 7 via e-mail to


Who can participate?

Teams of Howard County fifth graders who attend the same school.

What constitutes a team?
A team is comprised of five students and an adult coach (at least 18 years old). If a team loses a member before the actual Battle, remaining members may still participate; however teams, must have at least three members to participate on the day of the Battle. Teams may be named; team shirts, spirit wear and/or costumes are encouraged at the competition.

Will special accommodations be made for visually challenged team members?
If any type of special accommodations are needed, let us know by ? During the Battle all questions are spoken. If a team member has trouble writing the answer within the allotted 30 seconds, another team member may write the answer.

My notes from the initial coaches meeting and the logistics meeting shows that we need to check in by 5:45 pm latest for the competition on April 10th. However, I just noticed that the materials say 6:45 pm for the check in deadline for the students. Please confirm?
Check in begins for coaches at 5:45 pm, student check in begins at 6 pm. (If students arrive with coach, they can check in at 5:45 pm.) The deadline for students is 6:45 pm. Anyone who arrives after 6:45 pm becomes an audience member and cannot participate. As long as a team has at least 3 registered team members by 6:45 pm, the team will participate. This information is from page 3 of the coaches' handbook.

What type of team costumes are permissible?
Team shirts, spirit wear and/or costumes are encouraged; however images and/or titles relating to the books and/or their authors are NOT permitted. While coaches and assistant coaches may coordinate their attire with their team, it is not required.

May the name of any of the characters or book titles be on costumes?
No book titles, character names, or authors are allowed on costumes, banners, team members, or coaches.

May a picture of a character (without the name) or the book cover picture (without titles or authors) appear on a costume?

May non-contest books and/or authors appear on costumes?
While rules do not prohibit that, it is best to steer away from using any book titles or authors to avoid any confusion among the judges.

Are masks permitted as part of the costume for the procession into the gym?
Yes, but for safety reasons make sure they do not impair team members' visibility. Masks should be removed during the competition.

Since space on the floor is limited, will the assistant coach be allowed to take any part of the team's costume from the procession?
Seating is limited, so it is best to not incorporate large, bulky pieces into costumes.

Are team banners permissible? What is the maximum size? What can be included?
Banners are permissible. The maximum size is 22" x 28". Team names may be included on team banners, but titles of books, pictures of covers, author names, and character names should not be used.

May there be a poster with our team name and a visual design that conforms to the rules propped on an easel during the Battle of the Books?
Posters and easels are not allowed on the gym floor.

Are shorts permissible attire?
The gyms are not air conditioned, shorts are acceptable attire for team members and coaches

Is face painting allowed as part of the costumes?
Yes, that is fine. You probably don't want it too elaborate, in case it gets itchy....

When do we find out which books to read?
The book list is distributed in early October at the informational meeting.

Where will I obtain the Battle books?

Each team is provided with a set of books, courtesy of the Battle sponsors. The books are distributed at the mandatory coaches' meetings in December and must be picked up at that time.

A limited number of copies of the books are available to borrow at HCLS branches. Battle books are subject to the same borrowing 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.

How is the Battle played?

Each team is responsible for reading the preselected books ahead of time. Teams decide how to share this responsibility among members and when to hold team meetings.
Teams compete against one another on the floor of a school gymnasium. Each team will be located in a grid on the gym floor. A moderator reads questions aloud and then teams have 30 seconds to talk quietly among themselves and then write their answer on the answer sheet. When 30 seconds are up, time is called by the timekeeper, 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 announces the correct answer.

When does the 30 second clock start? How is time kept during the Battle?
The moderator reads the question two times. When s/he finishes reading the question the second time, s/he will verbally announce that the timing period is about to begin. The timekeeper's stopwatch begins its countdown after the question is read for the second time. When ten seconds is left, the timekeeper will say "10 seconds". At the end of the 30 seconds, the timekeeper will ring a bell, pencils must be put down, the answer sheet held up for the runners to collect. There is no visible clock.

Are team members and coaches allowed to wear watches?
Actual watches are allowed; cell phones and iPods are not.

Are any electronic devices allowed at the event?
All electronic devices are prohibited on the gym floor. Audience members in the stands may use them; however, they should be silenced and earphones used to minimize distractions.

How many questions will be asked per round?
The moderator will ask 12 or 13 questions per round. The last question of each round is a bonus question and will be announced as such. The questions are numbered continuously and do not start over with each round.

There are 50 questions total for the main competition. The competition has 4 rounds:
Round 1 has 12 questions
Round 2 has 13 questions

15 minute intermission/break

Round 3 has 12 questions
Round 4 has 13 questions

The last question of each round will be a bonus question and worth 4 points instead of 2.

Do students need to label all their answer papers with the team name? If so, may this be done before the questions are asked OR during the 30 second time frame allotted for each question?
Each team will be given answer sheets that are already labeled with their team name and question number.

May the team use a clipboard or lap desk when writing answers?
Clipboards will be provided.

Are bathroom breaks allowed?
Students are strongly encouraged to use the bathroom before the competition and during the scheduled 15 minute intermission break. If necessary, team members are allowed to go to the restroom during the competition between questions. To accommodate a bathroom break request, the coach should wait until the moderator is between questions and then signal a volunteer/staff person who will then accompany the student to the bathroom. The team member will not be allowed to return to the team until the moderator is once again between questions.

Are teams allowed to bring cushions or exercise mats to sit on instead of sitting directly on the floor?
No. Floor mats are provided by HCLS.

Is there a penalty for inadvertently encroaching into another team's grid on the gym floor?
There is no penalty for encroaching in another team's grid, however, team members should refrain from activity that may cause that to happen. Coaches sitting with the teams are responsible for making sure members stay within their slotted space.

Can you jump up to celebrate a correct answer or stand for a short time during a round?
Team members must remain seated

Are teams allowed to bring food for snacks during the break?
No. The school system has a very firm policy about no food or drinks (including water) in the gyms. We also cannot have food in the hallways. It is very important that students eat before the event. The intermission break is only 15 minutes, and we strongly suggest that bathroom breaks take priority during that time. If food is medically necessary (for maintaining blood sugar levels, etc.), then it is absolutely allowed.

Are the kids expected to bring their own pencils to write the answers to the questions, or will they be provided?
No. Pencils, erasers and pencil sharpeners will be provided. The students do not need to bring anything.

Do you have the dimension of the sitting area?
The seating area is 5'x7'.
When it is intermission time, will the students be dismissed from the gym, or will they be led back to the area where they were gathered prior to the parade of teams?
Everyone is dismissed from the gym for intermission. Afterwards, they go directly to their grid space.
Each team has received a set of books with ISBNs listed on the official book list. All competition questions will come from those specific editions. ALL PARTS of those books will be considered fair game for questions.

Does spelling count?
You should attempt to spell all answers correctly; however, correct answers with minor spelling errors will be counted as long as the intent of the answer is clear to the scorekeepers.

Will there be questions that reference chapter titles in the books?
There may be questions that ask, "In which book is there a chapter called...."

Will questions reference story elements such as setting, theme, or genre?
The moderator may ask questions about setting, theme or genre.

Will there be questions about copyright information, dedications, information about the author, acknowledgements, etc. that may appeared in the books?
Yes. Since all teams were given the same editions of the books, ALL PARTS of those books will be considered fair game for questions.

Is there a specified format for writing an author's names in an answer? For example does it have to be, Buckley, Michael or can it be Michael Buckley?
There is no specified format for the name of the author. Either way is fine.

Could there be questions that reference quotes taken from the books?
Questions could contain a quote or passage taken from the book.

If a question pertains to a picture from the books will the picture be projected onto a large screen?
No. The pictures may be described, but will not be shown.

May you change answers by marking them out on your paper? Is there a specific way to do this?
You may either cross out or erase one answer and rewrite a new one. There is no official requirement for eliminating the old answer, as long as it is clear to the judges which answer is final.

Will there be questions about epilogues, prologues, introductions or chapter names contained in the books?
The epilogue, prologue, introduction and chapter names are considered part of the book and there may be questions pertaining to them.

May the team start writing the answer to a question while the question is still being read?
While the team may start writing while the question is being read, However, it is very important to listen to the entire question in order to get the correct answer. Teams must refrain from verbally conferring and talking while the moderator is reading the question.

Will questions differentiate between the term “photograph” and “illustration” or will the general term “picture” be used to reference both?
All three terms may be used; however, the term “picture” could refer to either a photograph OR an illustration.

Will there be questions about the books' illustrators?
Yes. Any part of the book is fair game.

How do you handle pronunciation of non-English words or words from other countries? Will the moderator read those words slowly?
The moderator reads all questions slowly and clearly. Teams should be familiar enough with the books to know any non-English words.

When does the 30 second time limit to complete the answer begin? After the first or second reading of the question?
After the second reading of the question. Either the moderator or the time keeper will say, "Time starts now."

Will there be questions about the reading guides (Worth, Inside Out & Back Again)?
The reading guides are not in all versions of the books, nor are they essential to the stories. Any part of the book is fair game.

Will there be questions about author's notes in the books?
Any part of the book is fair game.

When asking questions about drawings, illustrations and photographs, will the word "picture" be used to cover any of the above, or will the questions be more specific, with "drawing" "sketch" "photograph" etc.?
The question may or may not be specific about the type drawing, illustration, or photograph.

Can questions be asked on the hand written notes? (In Candy Bomber, most of it is legible, but the letter on page 81 has several hand written notes and a few are so tiny they are hard to read)

Possibly. More likely about their existence as opposed to their content.

Will the quote from a character questions have the character's name in the question. Example: Joe said"...."?
No, the character's name will not be mentioned. The question will either lead directly into the quote or will say "In which book does a character say, '....'?"


Are teams penalized with a deduction in points for a wrong answer?

If an answer is wrong points are neither earned or deducted. A team earns points only if answers are correct.

If an author or title name is missing an apostrophe, will points be deducted or considered incorrect answer?

If the team writes the correct title but only writes the author's name partially (either the first or last name) before time runs out, will this be awarded a point or no points?
If only a partial author's name is written, no points are awarded. In order to get points, both the title and the author's FULL name must written and correct. If a team is running out of time and cannot complete the author's full name, leave it blank. If the title is correct and the author's name is entirely blank 1 point would be awarded for the answer. That 1 point would ONLY be awarded if the author's name is blank. If the author's name is partially written, the answer would be considered incorrect and no points will be awarded.

Is there a penalty for incorrect answers?
If an answer is incorrect, no points are awarded, so the score for the answer would be 0. (No points are deducted.)

What if they are rushed in writing their answer down and time is called and they only get part of the Author's name written down due to time constraints. Assuming the title is correct and the author was probably correct, just incomplete, would they still get 1 point, or is no credit given because they did not complete the author?

If the author's name (or the title, for that matter) is incomplete, it will be considered wrong and no points will be awarded. If they feel that they will not finish writing the author's name, and they cross out what is written for the author, or leave it blank before time is up, they will have a chance at 1 point.


Do I need a ticket to attend and where can I get one?
Tickets are limited and can only be acquired through participating schools. The participating schools are responsible for distribution and the tickets are traditionally reserved for participants, their family members and school personnel. Each team member, coaches, and school administrators receive a set number of tickets.
Everyone, including all non-team member children and students attending the event, must have a ticket to enter. No one will be admitted without a ticket. Other forms of identification such as a school ID will not be accepted as a substitute for a ticket. Children and students who are not part of a participating team must be accompanied at all times by an adult. Children are not permitted to roam the school building unattended.

Do the coach and assistant coach need to use one of the tickets provided or are they allowed in without a ticket?

The coach and assistant coach do not need tickets, nor do the students participating on the team. Tickets are for their guests.

If you still have questions, please email Battle of the Books

Battle of the Books