Keokuk Places in Iowa High School Battle of the Books Contest

Martha Marsot, Keokuk High School Teacher, Keokuk, IA

Helena Snyder, Samantha West, Rachal Starr, Madeline Berner

Keokuk HS Students: Helena Snyder, Samantha West, Rachal Starr, Madeline Berner

“What item did Evie first use her powers on?” “No, it wasn’t a belt buckle! It was a shoe buckle!”*

“Which one of these steps in preparing mushrooms is incorrect?” Washing them.*

A trivia contest? Well, sort of. These questions were a part of the Iowa High School Battle of the Books contest, which is sponsored annually by two Marshalltown, Iowa high school educators, teacher librarian Sue Inhelder, and TAG teacher Susan Fritzell. For the first time ever, Keokuk High School sponsored a team who participated in this contest.

The mission of the IHSBOB is to introduce Iowa students, grades 9-12, to award-winning literature. The list of 28 books is comprised of national award-winning books of multiple reading and interest levels, as well as the Iowa High School Book Award nominees. Senior Madeline Berner has wanted to “battle” ever since she learned about the contest, and she finally persuaded a few other bibliophiles to join her. Team members Madeline, Rachal Starr, Helena Snyder, and Samantha West had to read 28 novels, memorize authors and titles, and remember myriad details from the books. That might sound like a lot of work, but according to Madeline, “It was super fun to get together and do something that we all love!”

A preliminary online battle, which was a multiple choice and author name test, determined the top 16 teams in the state, who then travelled to Marshalltown, Iowa on April 26 to compete in a quiz-bowl type contest. “We had never done this before, and honestly didn’t expect to make it to the finals, so we were really excited to find out we made the top 16 for the final battle!” commented sponsor Barb Edler.

The final battle was held in the high school library at Marshalltown, with about 70 students and their sponsors. There were four rounds of oral questions, and teams had 10 seconds to come up with correct answers. Keokuk placed 7th in State! A great extra of the day was a Skype session with Mike Mullin, author of the popular book, Ashfall. Mike answered questions about his research process, and gave advice to aspiring writers. “Read a lot. And, marry someone with good health insurance.”

Keokuk’s good showing has energized the team for next year’s “battle.” The team met regularly during this school year to discuss their books, and started strategizing on the way home from Marshalltown about next year. The 2017 list is already out, and in their hands! High schools can have more than one team, and teams can have up to 6 members, so anyone interested in participating in this fun reading event should contact Mrs. Edler or Mrs. Marsot at the high school. More information about the IHSBOB is available at the official website.

*The Diviners by Libba Bray

*Relish: My life in the kitchen by Lucy Knisley

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