Briarcliff Teams Take Both Battle of the Books Crowns

The winning Briarcliff grades 6-12 team members Vivian Ellsworth, Noah Rinke, Paul Male-Diaz, Emily Isbell, Anushka Rai, Avni Chandra, Alivia Maresco and Bianca Jain. Coach Amy Kaplan is third from left in yellow shirt. Photo supplied

Like athletes preparing for a big game, some competitors began training last spring for the epic Battle of the Books, a round-robin knockout trivia tournament held at Ossining High School on Oct. 21. 

This year, 20 libraries across the county sponsored reading teams and both entrants from Briarcliff Manor Public Library (grades 4 to 7 and 6 to 12) emerged as champions in their categories. Hendrick Hudson Free Library, The Field Library in Peekskill, Croton Free Library and Ossining Public Library also competed.  

The format replicated an academic college bowl competition. Each round included 25 questions about the books chosen for this year. Participants pressed a buzzer to try and answer the questions first and pile up points. Each grade level read different sets of five fiction titles. 

At The Field Library, readers met every other Friday, said coach Maggie Leung, teen services librarian. She peppered her charges with questions about the material but took a laid-back tack. 

“Some coaches are hypercompetitive and really want to win,” she said. “For me, we’re here to read five books, do our best and hopefully not lose.” 

Liz Anastasi, head of youth services at Greenburgh Public Library, helped bring the nationwide reading incentive program to Westchester in 2014. 

“We wanted to come up with programs to get young people reading and having a good time,” she said. “The battle is team based, as opposed to a spelling or geography bee, so they get to confer with each other and tap everyone’s talent.” 

Coach Amy Kaplan (left) with the winning Briarcliff grades 4-7 team: Ananya Mittal, Reilly Conover, Samantha Conover, Bailey Teplow-Phipps, and Madeline Isbell. Photo supplied

To leaven the intellectual heft, teams enjoyed creating offbeat names, along with logos and T-shirts. During scrimmages held before the final skirmish, The Field Library Bookworms squared off against the Hendrick Hudson’s teen team.

The Croton Demonic Goats (inspired by a work of abstract art showcased in the library’s gallery) was the teen team from Croton. The younger group from Croton competed as the Readers of the River.

Ossining fielded the Capybaras (named for the rodent) and the Artifacts, an object featured in Warcross, by Marilyn Lu, one of the older group’s book selections. 

Hendrick Hudson’s teen team, Neuro Ferret Riders, mashed together elements from two of this year’s books and the younger squad called themselves Nine Tales to reflect the size of the roster and refer to one of their favorite Pokemon characters. 

The title-taking teams from Briarcliff – the Blueberry Scones Brigade (teens) and Briarcliff B.A.S.E.D. Battlers – also based their names on the reading material. 

Beyond the levity and the festive atmosphere at the final competition, the event served a higher purpose.  

“There aren’t a ton of library programs or book clubs for younger readers,” said Gillian Rothchild, reference librarian and teen team coach at Croton Free Library. “It’s harder to coordinate and maintain interest at that level, so making it into a game helps.” 

Reading List 

Grade 4-7 

  • Amari and the Night Brothers, by B. B. Alston 
  • Twins, by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright 
  • City Spies, by James Ponti 
  • Holes, by Louis Sachar 
  • Maizy Chen’s Last Chance, by Lisa Yee 

Grade 6-12 

  • The Inheritance Games, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 
  • Warcross, by Marie Lu 
  • A Deadly Education, by Naomi Novak 
  • Lucy Clark Will Not Apologize, by Margo Rabb 
  • I Must Betray You, by Ruta Sepetys


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About the Author: Marc Ferris