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Wood River Middle School Students Win Third Straight Battle of the Books Championship
Elle Deckard, Seneca Vanden Heuvel, Emilia Kent, Emma Georgiades and Kaylynne Kaious savor their win with coach Mark Gasenica in the Wood River Middle School library. PHOTO: Karen Bossick
Monday, May 6, 2024


Wood River Middle School students know the written word!

A team from Wood River Middle School recently won the Idaho Battle of the Books Region IV Tournament for the third year in a row.

Elle Deckard, Emila Kent, Emma Georgiades, Kaylynne Kaious and Seneca Vanden Heuvel--all coached by Mark Gasenica--won the championship as members of Team SPEW, or Society for the Protection of Elfish Welfare. Three members of that team--Georgiades, Kent and Vanden Heuvel--were on The Order of the Phoenix team that won last year’s championship.

Second place went to Donna and the Dynamites from Hemingway STEAM School, comprised of Harena Cushman, Bria Smiley, Kinley Letson, Georgia Bogue and coached by Lydia Flynn. PHOTO: Samantha Archibald Mora

This year they won it on their home turf as Wood River Middle School hosted 18 qualifying teams from WRMS, The Community School, Hemingway STEAM School, Burley Junior High and Oakley Junior High.

Second place went to Donna and the Dynamites from Hemingway STEAM School. It was comprised of Harena Cushman, Bria Smiley, Kinley Letson, Georgia Bogue and coached by Lydia Flynn.

Third place went to The Simpsons from Wood River Middle School. The sixth-grade team was made up of Eliot Choate, Finn Wohlwend, Leo Molinaroli, Sawyer Drumm and Tripp Vanden Heuvel and coached by Kate Breloff.

“We had our best IBOB year yet at the Middle School,” said teacher-librarian Samantha Archibald Mora. “This year we had 20 staff participate as coaches and/or members of a faculty team and 70 students on 12 student teams. And the tournament was a blast—we even had a virtual meeting with author K.A. Holt, who wrote one of this year’s IBOB books: ‘House Arrest.’ ”

Third place went to The Simpsons from Wood River Middle School. The sixth-grade team, which Samantha Mora hopes will be back next year, was made up of Eliot Choate, Finn Wohlwend, Leo Molinaroli, Sawyer Drumm and Tripp Vanden Heuvel and coached by Kate Breloff. PHOTO: Samantha Archibald Mora

Idaho Battle of the Books, which goes by the motto “Today a Reader, Tomorrow a Leader,” is a statewide voluntary reading motivation and comprehension program open to Idaho students in grades 4 through 12. Lists of books are chosen and questions written for each grade level division.

Students read the books, discuss them and then compete in teams to answer questions in a quiz show format. Each battle has 16 questions—one for each of the 16 books the students read. Half of the questions are “in which book” format and the other half are content questions.

This year’s books included Eugene Yelchin’s “The Genius Under the Table,” K.A. Holt’s “House Arrest,” Alan Gratz’s “Ground Zero,” “Victoria Schwab’s “City of Ghosts, Amy Timberlake’s “One Came Home” and B.B. Alston’s “Amari and the Night Brothers.”

On the day of the tournament, qualifying teams took part in three battles with the top eight teams going to the quarterfinals. Four teams competed in the semi-finals, tasked with answering such questions as “In which book does the neighbor of the main character look like the Wicked Witch of the West from that really old movie?” (“Amari and the Night Brothers”).

Samantha Archibald Mora reads off the raffle winners who got their choice of a game called “Really Loud Librarians—A Mindless Word Shouting Game” or one of several books. PHOTO: Karen Bossick

Those taking part in the final competition answered such questions as “Give the full names of two people Em and Devontae choose for their history project on groundbreakers in Monica Roe’s “Air.” (The choices were Bill Pickett, Danica Patrick, Dr. Ronald McNair and Katherine Beattie).

Following the competition, teachers and students celebrated with their parents at a potluck in the library. Awards were in abundance. Kaylynne Kaious, for instance, was given the Stormbreaker Award, a play on one of the books, for remembering details “freakishly well…just like a spy who needs to know everything.”

And math teacher Mark Gasenica who coached the winning team, was given the 007 Award as “the person most likely to be an undercover M-16 agent straight out of ‘Stormbreaker’ and for teaching unbeatable SPEW math and life skills that will help students solve many different types of problems in life.”

Doing the reading and practicing against other teams (this year Bellevue Elementary fifth-graders took part for the first time) is a lot of work, noted Gasenica. But, he said, it has turned some students into passionate readers who hardly cracked a book open before.

Students were given honors drawn from the books they read for the competition.

Several students confirmed that during the celebratory potluck.

“It made me want to read more,” said one student. “And during competition I’d jump up I’d get so excited.”

“IBOB for me started as a pastime but soon turned into one of my most favorite things to do,” said Luane Gonzales. “I bonded with people I had never dared to speak to before and built a strong friendship with them. Competition just made it even more exciting. It’s one of the things that helps you adjust to a community of different people.”

Eighth-grader Grace Foudy said she participated in IBOB all three years of middle school.

“It’s a such a welcoming and fun community to be a part of. It allows all students to compete and be a part of a team. The opportunities through IBOB are amazing and it helps bring more readers into the library,” she added.

Emma Georgiades also has taken part all three years.

“The trivia aspect of it is really fun and the competitive atmosphere is energizing,” she said. “I love being a part of a team and competing for our glory! IBOB is full of nice, interesting people who usually share some of your same interests, and is overall a great activity to do.”

Tim Deckard, who was among the parents in attendance, said he found the Battle of the Books amazing.

“They have to read 16 books, which to me is amazing. And it’s highly competitive—they have to remember tiny details so they can answer the questions. They really have to pay attention when they’re reading.”

OTHER BOOKS IN THIS YEAR’s Battle of the Books:

Brandon Sanderson’s “Skyward,” Nahoko Uehashi’s “The Beast Player,” Rob Harrell’s “Wink,” Monica Roe’s “Air,” Kat Fajardo’s “Miss Quinces,” Mike Lupica’s “Game Changers,” Anthony Horowitz’s “Stormbreaker,” John August’s “Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire,” Donna Higuera’s “The Last Cuentista” and Christina Soontornvat’s “All Thirteen.”

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