The Tournament of the Books

While this is a departure from the stock standard review entry for me, I just needed to get this idea down while it was still fresh in my head.

In the last few weeks of the term, my year eights and I have held a tournament of the books, modified on the Morning News ToB which I avidly followed this year.

So we began with 16 books that the majority of the class had read this year:
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  • The Declaration
  • The Hunger Games
  • Holes
  • Chinese Cinderella
  • Once
  • Gone
  • Parvana
  • The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas
  • My Sister's Keeper
  • Shopaholic
  • Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging
  • Fallen
  • Twilight
  • Shiver
  • Tomorrow When The War Began
Then pitted book against book for the first round where one student would review the book, and another would judge between the pairings. The reviews went up on the class wiki page. Here is an excerpt from a particularly cute one:

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a war time book set in Germany about a nine year old boy named Bruno. His world is turned upside down when his father a newly promoted Nazi officer moves the family from central Berlin to a far away country house. Bruno misses all his friends and feels lonely every day, until he meets a  "farmer" called Shmuel who wears his striped pyjamas all day every day. Bruno befriends him an the book is all about what they do together from opposite sides of the fence.

I liked this book because it tells you that not all Germans knew what their soldiers were doing and that they weren't all to blame. It is also a bit of a coming of age novel even though Bruno is only nine. It shows him having the maturity of an adult but the common sense and naivite of a child. His sister also grows up a lot more, throwing out her adored dolls to try and land a young soldier. The book made me laugh and cry which makes a really clever book.
So then we had eight winners from round one. As the rounds progressed, there were fewer books that all the class had read, so this made the decision making quite hard. When I revisit this next year, I'll think about the text choices a bit earlier and get more of the class to have read the selections.

To solve this problem, I decided to let the original nominees of the books choose an excerpt to read out loud and let the listeners choose whose book sounded better. This was the most enthralled I have seen this class for a long while. They listened intently and deliberated over their choice. Some of the decisions were really tough; all the top eight were well written and their chosen excerpts were sad, clever, funny and engaging. They sat quietly and listened last period on a Friday! A teaching miracle!

The final four were Once, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging.

For the next stage I got the class into "teams"; Team Harry, Team Katniss and so on. Then I posed some hypothetical questions about their characters such as:
  • How long would your character last in the Australian outback?
  • What is your character's most treasured possession?
  • Is your character afraid of anything? 
  • What is your character's strength?
  • What would your character's axiom or life motto be?
  • Is your character likely to appeal to teenage girls?
  • Does your character have any flaws?
  • If the country was ruled by a King and he was a bad man, what would your character do about it?
  • What is your character's greatest skill?
  • What would your character give as a Christmas present?
And then decided between their answers as to which character deserved a point. This was hilarious! They treated it like a debate, interjecting and making each team elaborate with examples. At one point two girls high fived each other when they thought of a particularly winning answer. So much fun!

The two victorious books are The Hunger Games and Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging. The winner will be voted on today in our regular library lesson. Can't wait!