I am the Battle of the Books coach again this year at my elementary school. In my opinion, it is the best club offered. In what other club can 5th and 6th graders read twelve incredible novels, discuss them with peers, and battle to see which team remembers the most details from the books. It is a ton of work to coach BOTB because I have to stay ahead of the kids reading schedule and write questions so the students are ready for the battles. I was so proud of my team that competed against the other schools in the district last spring. They did a great job! This year I have tripled the number of students in the club.
The first book we read this quarter was Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. What a great story! It had all the elements: adventure, mystery, courage, and a wonderful message. The message of the story is that knowledge is power. The rats become super rats because of their ability to read and write. They read anything that they can get their hands on, and in turn, create an unbelievable life for themselves. This book is a must read for every elementary aged student.
The second book we read was Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. I loved, loved this book! However, I’m not sure how it ended up on the BOTB list. This book is incredibly deep and intense. It did not seem like the author wrote this book for a young audience. The whole time I was reading this book, the lyrics to a Florence and the Machine song, kept running through my head. “And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him off”. I do this a lot when I read. I make a connection to a song, it seems to help me connect the characters better. Usually, each character has their own song, but in this book, all the characters reminded me of this one song. This song is about regret and not being able to put the past behind, which was a common theme of all the characters. The two main characters of this book are 12-13 year old girls, with pre-fourty year old, stay at home moms. Their moms have zero sense of self worth, and in turn, run away from their families. See why I am questioning this book for 5th and 6th graders? The girls are left with fathers, longing for the past, and not knowing what went wrong. Like I said, it is intense. Walk Two Moons, is a book, I will not soon forget. Now I just need to figure out the best way to approach this book with my students. For the most part, they are pretty literal and will not have dissected the characters as deeply as I have. Lucky for me, they are not attuned to middle-aged mom issues. I’m sure their discussions will just focus on Sal’s crazy grandparents that let her drive their car, and the kiss from Ben. I will gladly leave it there and we will be ready to move on to our next book, Jennifer Murdley’s Toad. This book seems like it will be very appropriate for my young book lovers.