Question of Week

Monday, January 31, 2011

This week's Question is...
In which book is one of the character's mother an anthropologist?

Leave a comment with the following information:

Name of  your school
The complete title of the book as it appears on the Book Battle Book List
Author's name

The correct answer along with all schools submitting the correct answer will appear in a Friday post.
Good Luck!

Featured Book of the Week
and An Exciting Announcement

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Imagine waking up one day in total darkness, unsure of where you are and unable to remember anything about yourself except your first name. You're in a bizarre place devoid of adults called the Glade. The Glade is an enclosed structure with a jail, a graveyard, a slaughterhouse, living quarters, and gardens. And no way out. Outside the Glade is the Maze, and every day some of the kids -- the Runners -- venture into the labyrinth, trying to map the ever-changing pattern of walls in an attempt to find an exit from this hellish place. So far, no one has figured it out. And not all of the Runners return from their daily exertions, victims of the maniacal Grievers, part animal, part mechanical killing machines.

Thomas is the newest arrival to the Glade in this Truman-meets-Lord of the Flies tale. A motley crew of half a dozen kids is all he has to guide him in this strange world. As soon as he arrives, unusual things begin to happen, and the others grow suspicious of him. Though the Maze seems somehow familiar to Thomas, he's unable to make sense of the place, despite his extraordinary abilities as a Runner. What is this place, and does Thomas hold the key to finding a way out?
(Publisher's summary from Goodreads)

 Announcement and Special Guest Post From 
James Dashner

The Area Wide Book Battle Committee with the help of Scholastic Book Fairs is happy to announce that James Dashner will be attending this year's battle.  

Hi guys! I'm honored to be part of the Book Battle this year, and I can't wait to come out there and meet a lot of you. I hope you'll enjoy my book, The Maze Runner. It's a dark story and might give you some nightmares, maybe even cause some permanent psychological damage. I hope you're cool with that! Just get a therapist afterward and watch lots of Spongebob and you should be back on track.

I had a lot of fun writing this book, as well as the two sequels (Book 3 comes out this fall). It was heavily inspired by two books I loved in high school: Ender's Game and Lord of the Flies. It was also influenced by the TV show Lost, which I was watching while working on the manuscripts. There is a lot of mystery, action, intrigue, and suspense, and I hope that you find yourself wanting to tear through its pages.

There are a lot of exciting things coming down the pipeline related to this series, including a movie by 20th Century Fox, so crack it open and have at it! I hope you have as much fun reading my story as I did writing it. See you soon....
James Dashner
About the Author

James Dashner is the author of both children's fantasy series The 13th Reality, and the Jimmy Fincher Saga. His novel The Journal of Curious Letters was chosen for a 2008 Borders Original Voices pick. He has been published by Cedar Fort, Inc and by Shadow Mountain Press, known for their popular children's novels series Leven Thumps and Fablehaven. However, Delacorte—a division of Random House— published his new series, The Maze Runner, the first of which was out Fall 2009, and The Scorch Trails, which was released Oct. 2010. The third book in this dysptopian series The Death Cure (working title) is planned to be release Oct. 2011.

James Dashner was born in Georgia and attended Brigham Young University. Dashner. He currently lives in South Jordan City, Utah and is married with four children.

The Return of the Question of the Week!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Last year The Area Wide Book Battle and our official Book Battle Blog posted a question a week to help teams prepare for the competition in May.

I am happy to report that starting next Monday, 1/ 31/11, the Question of the Week will once again be a part of a weekly post. All schools are invited to participate, and the school who answers the most questions correctly will receive a prize that will be announced at the book battle.

Here's how it works!
Each Monday a new question pertaining to one of the books on the 2010/2011 Book Battle List will be posted. Schools wanting to participate will leave a comment with their answer. On Thursday, the correct answer to Monday's question will be posted along with the names of each school who correctly answered that week's question. The school with the most correct answers will win.

When leaving a comment please make sure you...
  • Identify your school's complete name
  • Identify both the title of the book and the author's name
Any comments without both of the above written in the comment will be disqualified.

Good Luck! 

Also make sure you check out the Feature Book of the Week every Tuesday. This week I have a very exciting announcement to make and it will greatly affect everyone's Book Battle experience this year. Don't miss it!

Featured Book of The Week
Faith, Hope and Ivy June by Phyllis Naylor

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Ivy June Mosely and Catherine Combs, two girls from different parts of Kentucky, are participating in the first seventh-grade student exchange program between their schools. The girls will stay at each other’s homes, attend school together, and record their experience in their journals. Catherine and her family have a beautiful home with plenty of space. Since Ivy June’s house is crowded, she lives with her grandparents. Her Pappaw works in the coal mines supporting four generations of kinfolk. Ivy June can’t wait until he leaves that mine forever and retires. As the girls get closer, they discover they’re more alike than different, especially when they face the terror of not knowing what’s happening to those they love most. (publisher's summary from Goodreads)

Guest Post from Phyllis Naylor

I'd been thinking a long time about two girls from different cultures, trading places--inspired, I suppose, by Mark Twain's "The Prince and the Pauper," which Dad read to me as a child.  But more than that, I wanted to explore stereotypes as well as our defenses--the things we should examine in our own backgrounds as well as the things we should cherish. 
But somehow the plot just wasn't coming together for me, until Michelle Poploff, of Delacorte, wrote to ask if I would consider doing a book about a coal mining family.  My first thought was to decline, as I had written about a coal miner many years ago in my novel, "Wrestle the Mountain."  But the more I thought about it, the clearer the plot became.  I still had a huge amount of old research in my files, but it was a fairly recent news story on a mine accident that tipped the scales for me and brought it all into focus. 
I dearly love the characters in this book.  I rarely base characters on people I know, but in many ways Papaw in the story is my dad's father, though Ivy June's grandfather is a coal miner and mine was a country preacher.  And my paternal grandmother, Mammaw, became Ivy June's grandmother (though mine was a midwife).  Both families in my book, the rich and the poor, have their failings, but also much to admire, and as I wrote their stories, I came to understand my own background even better.   --Phyllis Naylor
About the Author 
Naylor was born on January 4, 1933 in Anderson, Indiana. Her father was a traveling salesman so they were always on the move. Many of her novels were set where her grandparents lived in Iowa and Maryland. She spent many summers with her grandparents in these places.

Naylor grew up during the Depression. She never really thought that her family was poor because her family owned a number of good books, which her parents read to her and her siblings. When she was in primary school, Naylor began making up her own stories. She also illustrated them. Her reputation as a good writer followed her, and she was often called upon to give poems and stories for special occasions at school.

When Naylor was sixteen, her Sunday school teacher asked her to submit one of her stories to the church magazine she was publishing. Naylor's story was accepted and this encouraged her to write and submit more.  Naylor admits that these stories were, in her own works, "not very original" and "predictable." (Grummond)

At the age of eighteen, Naylor married. After she graduated from junior college, she moved to Chicago with her husband. Here she worked as a clinical secretary while he attended graduate school. She also worked as an elementary school teacher. She was assistant editor for the NZA Journal. Years later Naylor's husband began showing signs of severe mental illness. He was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.  When it became apparent that her husband was not going to recover, she filed for divorce and married Rex V. Naylor.

Soon after, she returned to college and majored in clinical psychology at America University. By the time she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree, she decided she would become a full-time writer. Her first book, The Galloping Goat and Other Stories. Since then she has published a book every year. She has won many awards over the years including: Junior Literacy Guild, the Edgar, the Newberry Award for Shiloh (1991).

Naylor and her husband live in Bethesda, Maryland. They have two grown sons. Despite her busy schedule, the author is active in peace and civil right organization. (Grummond) Biography written by Laura Beil and Sarah Lasham Campbell County High School, Gillette, Wyoming)

Feature Book of the Week
Scorpia by Anthony Horowitz

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


When an investigation into a series of mysterious deaths leads agents to an elite prep school for rebellious kids, MI6 assigns Alex Rider, fourteen-year-old reluctant spy, to the case. Before he knows it, Alex is hanging out with the sons of the rich and powerful, and something feels wrong. Very wrong. These former juvenile delinquents have turned well-behaved, studious-and identical-overnight. It's up to Alex to find out who is masterminding this nefarious plot, before they find him. The clock is ticking-is Alex's luck about to run out?


Anthony Horowitz's life might have been copied from the pages of Charles Dickens or the Brothers Grimm. Born in 1956 in Stanmore, Middlesex, to a family of wealth and status, Anthony was raised by nannies, surrounded by servants and chauffeurs. His father, a wealthy businessman, was, says Mr. Horowitz, "a fixer for Harold Wilson." What that means exactly is unclear — "My father was a very secretive man," he says— so an aura of suspicion and mystery surrounds both the word and the man. As unlikely as it might seem, Anthony's father, threatened with bankruptcy, withdrew all of his money from Swiss bank accounts in Zurich and deposited it in another account under a false name and then promptly died. His mother searched unsuccessfully for years in attempt to find the money, but it was never found. That too shaped Anthony's view of things. Today he says, "I think the only thing to do with money is spend it." His mother, whom he adored, eccentrically gave him a human skull for his 13th birthday. His grandmother, another Dickensian character, was mean-spirited and malevolent, a destructive force in his life. She was, he says, "a truly evil person", his first and worst arch villain. "My sister and I danced on her grave when she died," he now recalls.

A miserably unhappy and overweight child, Anthony had nowhere to turn for solace. "Family meals," he recalls, "had calories running into the thousands…. I was an astoundingly large, round child…." At the age of eight he was sent off to boarding school, a standard practice of the times and class in which he was raised. While being away from home came as an enormous relief, the school itself, Orley Farm, was a grand guignol horror with a headmaster who flogged the boys till they bled. "Once the headmaster told me to stand up in assembly and in front of the whole school said, 'This boy is so stupid he will not be coming to Christmas games tomorrow.' I have never totally recovered." To relieve his misery and that of the other boys, he not unsurprisingly made up tales of astounding revenge and retribution.

So how did an unhappy boy, from a privileged background, metamorphose into the creator of Alex Rider, fourteen-year-old spy for Britain's MI6? Although his childhood permanently damaged him, it also gave him a gift — it provided him with rich source material for his writing career. He found solace in boyhood in the escapism of the James Bond films, he says. He claims that his two sons now watch the James Bond films with the same tremendous enjoyment he did at their age. Bond's glamour translates perfectly to the 14-year-old psyche, the author says. "Bond had his cocktails, the car and the clothes. Kids are just as picky. It's got to be the right Nike trainers (sneakers), the right skateboard. And I genuinely think that 14-year-olds are the coolest people on the planet. It's this wonderful, golden age, just on the cusp of manhood when everything seems possible."

Alex Rider is unwillingly recruited at the age of fourteen to spy for the British secret service, MI6. Forced into situations that most average adults would find terrifying and probably fatal, young Alex rarely loses his cool although at times he doubts his own courage. Using his intelligence and creativity, and aided by non-lethal gadgets dreamed up by MI6's delightfully eccentric, overweight and disheveled Smithers, Alex is able to extricate himself from situations when all seems completely lost. What is perhaps more terrifying than the deeply dangerous missions he finds himself engaged in, is the attitude of his handlers at MI6, who view the boy as nothing more than an expendable asset.

The highly successful Alex Rider novels include Stormbreaker, Point Blank, Skeleton Key, Eagle Strike, Scorpia, Ark Angel, Snakehead and most recently Crocodile Tears. And 2010 sees the Alex Rider series celebrate its 10 year anniversary!!!

Anthony Horowitz is perhaps the busiest writer in England. He has been writing since the age of eight, and professionally since the age of twenty. In addition to the highly successful Alex Rider books, he is also the writer and creator of award winning detective series Foyle’s War, and more recently event drama Collision, among his other television works he has written episodes for Poirot, Murder in Mind, Midsomer Murders and Murder Most Horrid. Anthony became patron to East Anglia Children’s Hospices in 2009.(Author biography retrieved from author's website)

Featured Book of the Week
The Academy by Ridley Pearson

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

 Featured Book of the Week

 Steven "Steel" Trapp has been placed in an East Coast boarding school for gifted kids by his FBI agent father. He soon discovers that there's a clubby element of the faculty and upper classmen that is very secretive and protective. To his surprise, his friend Kaleigh arrives to board at the school and it isn't long before the two realize that this is not your normal boarding school. It seems a select few students are recruited, while still minors, to serve as special "translators" for the US Government. People—including diplomats and dignitaries—will say things around kids that they wouldn't otherwise dare speak outside of embassies. The willing student "agent" takes a semester abroad and ends up spying for his country.

   But there are dark elements at play at the school. Foreign agents may have penetrated the school's secrecy and may have sleepers in place: kids spying on future kid spies. There is conspiracy and competition among the elite faculty that threatens security. As Steel and Kaileigh are recruited for their first test run—trying to break a ring of pickpockets in a Boston hotel—things go impossibly wrong. Betrayal and conspiracy cloud what should have been a straightforward assignment. And all too soon, their very lives are in danger. (Publisher's summary from Amazon)
Interview With Ridley Pearson

Mr. Pearson graciously took time out of his busy writing schedule to answers a few questions about Steel Trapp and his writing life.

Jan: Where did the idea to create an adolescent protagonist with a photographic memory come from, and did you know when you first began developing Steel that his mind would be so useful to creating suspenseful plots?

Ridley Pearson (RP): I think photographically, so creating this character came naturally. The more I wrote in Steel's world, the more unfolded and I realized how big the canvas was.

Jan: Your first adult novel was released in 1985. What prompted you to begin writing books for adolescents, and how is writing for this audience different than adults?

RP: I became a dad.  That's about it.  That led me on unexpected adventures; and since I read each night to my kids and invented stories at bedtime, I started to want to write  something more permanent.

Jan: I read that you often work on four books a year?  Can you explain a little about the process it takes for you to accomplish such a feat?

RP: I'm writing three at the moment. I actually enjoy the process. Nothing gets stale -- to say the least.

Jan: Steel Trapp seems like a natural extension of your adult crime novels, all of which have intricate and twisting plots, and like your crime novels, both of the Steel Trapp novels are “aerobic fiction,” a term you used to named “good old page turners”. Can you provide insight into your writing process that helps you create fast paced exciting plots?

RP: With Steel, and to a certain degree the Kingdom Keepers, I wanted to write books of a slightly more "adult" level.  Not "See spot run," as so many YA books are.  I wanted to write my crime novels but PG-13 or PG instead of R.

Jan: In addition to creating such great plots in the SteelTrapp novels, you also write very realistic characters and carefully described settings. Is there any one element of fiction that you feel is more important than another or that seems to be more difficult to create?

RP: Character is what carries the reader through a book.  Place can be an important character. Plot is the engine.  If the engine's too loud it can drown out the characters -- it's that balance that either works or not in "fun" fiction.  I'm not writing to deliver a message; I leave that others.  My message is: have fun.

Jan: Steel Trapp is told from third person limited. Why did you choose this perspective instead of writing it from first person?

RP: As much as I like writing in 1st person, I rarely publish in it.  3rd person allows the writer multiple view points -- inside the head of the girl, the boy, the criminal.  It expands and is a more complex world to create.  I like to be challenged.

Jan: You have a home in Idaho and in St. Louis. From what I’ve read you spend the school year here in St Louis do you consider yourself a Missouri resident or an Idaho resident? What advantages does St Louis have over other cities?

RP: I am very much a Missouri resident, but my heart is probably more firmly rooted in Idaho where I spent 20+ years of my middle life.  There is nothing like a hike or ski in the Idaho countryside.

Jan: You are a bass guitar player and play in a band called the Rock-Bottom Remainders with other published authors. How did the band begin? How often do the members get together to jam, and when and where is your next gig?

RP: Most of this can be read about on my web site.  The Remainders had a strange beginning indeed!  Our next tour is April:  Washington, DC; Philadelphia; New York City; Boston. Should be a great one.

Jan: What is up next for Steel Trapp?

RP: China?  My family just got back from living in Shanghai for a year.

Jan: You will be releasing a new Kingdom Keeper book in April 2010. Can you tell us about this series and what to expect from Disney in the Shadow.

RP: This is SUCH a fun series to write.  Disney gives me full access to their parks, and the Imagineers give me back stage, behind the scenes tours when the park is closed at night, or in the early, early morning.  I translate that research into the lives of five teenagers battling Disney villains.  Shadow enters the world of EPCOT and takes us to places we have not been before.

 About the Author

Ridley Pearson is the author of more than twenty novels, including the New York Times bestseller KILLER WEEKEND; the Lou Boldt crime series; and many books for young readers, including the award-winning children's novels PETER AND THE STARCATCHERS, PETER AND THE SHADOW THIEVES, and PETER AND THE SECRET OF RUNDOON, which he cowrote with Dave Barry. Pearson lives with his wife and two daughters, dividing their time between Missouri and Idaho. (bio retrieved from
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