Battle of the Books

Tayde McDonald, Obama Eagle Staff Editor

I hope you all remember Elizabeth Uptegraff, the first school librarian of Obama Academy integrated into Peabody’s building. Without her, it’s likely that our two Battle of the Books groups would never have happened.

Last May, Ms. Uptegraff gave me a flier advertising the Battle of the Books. Each school in the Pittsburgh area could submit several groups of four of five members to enter this “reading based” book competition. The book list would be released in November. What a long wait it had been.

I was excited, as thrilled as a nerdy bookworm could be. I just needed to find the other four members, something that took longer than expected. I ran through a number of people, some said they’d stay but left due to time restraints. Our very own Sarah Parker, Executive Editor for the Eagle, opted to join. She dropped out because newspaper is life (winks).

That left us with five members: Zackry Harrison, Hailey Treloar, Jahlia Finney, Krista Caraway, and myself, Tayde McDonald. Amazingly, Krista joined in the last month and was more prepared than the rest of us. We were effectively known as The League of Literary Legends.

The eight books to be studied were as follows:

  1. I Am J by Cris Beam
  2. Everyday by David Levithan
  3. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
  4. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  5. Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson
  6. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
  7. Out of Nowhere by Maria Padain
  8. Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am by Harry Mazer


This was only for high school. Middle school’s was:

  1. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
  2. How they Croaked by Georgia Bragg
  3. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
  4. Beyonders: A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull
  5. Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
  6. Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
  7. Inside Out & Back Again by Thanha Lai
  8. Sillhouetted by the Blue by Traci L. Jones
  9. Poseidon: Earth Shaker by George O’Connor
  10. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein



The sixth graders straight up crammed, but they had an amazing time at the event. “They were ecstatic in competing, fist-pumping every time they got something right,” Ms. Sirio says. Their names were: Dominic Victoria, Jaiman White, Jonathon Freeman, and Nathaniel Shuty.

Our studying process consisted of reading the books, rereading them, and then asking each other random, obscure questions worthy of a place in Ms. McKrell’s test booklet. At first I thought we’d be getting thematic questions like in a sort of debate club, but our chosen captain, Ms. Sirio, confirmed we’d be facing trivia (the middle school competition was a week before our’s). So we quizzed ourselves: “What kind of paint did Blue say was safe to eat?” “How did Marcus pass through security detectors?” “What was Ben’s last name?” Questions like these were spewed back and forth each lunch period and during after school. Each of us was committed to heavily studying two books, so they’d be easy to rely on. The most impressive trivia wiz by far was Hailey, who was able to write down the full name of Julia in Code Name Verity – all five of her names in correct order.

In fact, the success of our group is largely due to Hailey’s impressive feat in sparring with a Shadyside student on Code Name Verity. She had a problem with one of the prompts, saying it was actually a trick question. When another student challenged her on the matter, she responded in a way that silenced the judges. They gave everyone a free point on that one, solely for being impressed by a good debate. Anyone who knows Hailey well will know she’s the queen of debate.

That move put us back in the game after worrying about the first round, where we lost 12 points. At the end, it was announced that a tie breaker would be needed, and we held our breaths.

“The teams currently tied for first place are, The Fizzing Whizbees, Gone with the Winchester… and… the League of Literary Legends!”

At the end of the round, we earned second place out of the six teams present.

All hail the Mighty Book Lord, this is how we role! It took months of hard work and passion to earn our certificates, and we made it. I guarantee that we were more than proud to represent Obama Academy in this competition, we were honored.

Our feelings? Pride, joy, and relief. At first I thought how relaxing it would be to no longer have ties to these books, but now I’m sad to let them go. It was a wonderful experience to fight in this competition, but looking at the questions that I couldn’t answer made me realize that I have to improve on character and setting comprehension, my memory falters in that department (wow Tayde that’s like an entire book). Above everything is the determination we feel. This is now an annual event. First place for next year is definitely brewing in our minds.