Students Compete in First Battle of the Books


Clara Ferreira Lopes

In order to include a variety of books for the competition, each one was selected based on the genre and writing style. Some prominent titles included “Clap When You Land” by Elizabeth Acevedo and “Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful” by Arwen Dayton.

Freshmen Bernice Hung, Rachel Kim, Amber Lea and Saanvi Thakur won 23-20 against two staff members in the first annual Battle of the Books competition on March 22, according to librarian Melissa Misenhimer. The staff team consisted of media technician Amanda Cramer and administrative assistant Christina Sanchez, who, along with the students, formed a team in January and prepared by reading a list of 12 books picked by Misenhimer.

The main event was a trivia competition in which each team answered questions about the books for points in a Jeopardy format. Among the titles were “The Hobbit” by J.R.R Tolkein, “One of Us is Lying” by Karen M. McManus, and “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros.

“We’re not seeing students on campus right now, and we really wanted to do something for students who are excited about reading or who wanted to do something fun to get their minds off of all the craziness right now,” Misenhimer said.

Competitors had the opportunity to read a variety of literary genres, including fantasy, mystery and manga. 

“Through reading different genres, it’s really interesting to see how much the genre affects the writing style and the storyline, which was nice to me because it expanded the selection of books I would be willing to read,” Kim said.

To accommodate for COVID-19 safety guidelines, the event took place over Zoom, which created difficulties regarding advertising and promotion. 

“Usually the Learning Commons would have a ton of people in it at lunchtime,” Misenhimer said. “We would have classes coming in all the time, so I could see people, and Ms. Cramer could see people, and we could be like, ‘Hey, we know you like to read! We have this competition going on right now, Battle of the Books!’ And we could try and get more people excited and involved. So it [was] a little bit hard as far as promotion.”

Initially, the student team was meant to compete against Northwood High and University High students, but a lack of interest led to the Portola High team competing against staff members instead. Even with the lack of competition from other schools, the Battle of the Books was still a collaborative effort from the librarians of all three schools. University High librarian Dominic Frat and Northwood High librarian Peter Fatzaun helped contribute to the list of books and the competition questions, according to staff member and competitor Amanda Cramer. 

“Ms. Misenhimer, Mr. Frat, and Mr. Fatzaun had prepared very well,” Cramer said. “For any future competitors, I recommend taking some notes or reading things twice. I hope we can rally more competitors next year and have some more fun with it.”