Battle of the Books reaches fifth anniversary

Berger dynasty ousted

New Ulm Middle School therapy dog Von congratulates James Groebner, Alyvia Hacker, and Stella Albrecht (L-R) on their victory in the fifth annual Battle of the Books Wednesday. Last year’s winning team “The Nerd Herd” made it to the final round, but came up short in continuing the Berger book battle dynasty.

NEW ULM — From 78 students and 27 teams who had to read 12 books, only one team could come out on top.

That was the scenario as New Ulm Middle School held its fifth annual Battle of the Books competition on Wednesday. Organizer Vickie Tambornino said the event had grown wildly since the beginning when they had 10-12 groups and around 30 students.

She said this year they looked to all different genres for their book selection.

“We had a little bit of all different genres of books,” Tambornino said. “We had graphic novels, historical fiction, fantasy, and some books that were award-winners.”

Some examples of chosen books include “Aragon”, “Swim Team”, “Invisible”, and “I Am Number Four”. Tambornino said plenty of research and experience has come in handy to find the right book combinations.

Organizer Vicki Tambornino checks in with a team before the event gets started. This event was different from last year, as it was held in February and answers were taken on computers instead of paper sheets.

“We look on many websites to find out some of the top books that are out there,” she said. “I also participate in the book challenge from the Traverse des Sioux libraries. Otherwise, we get together and [find] some of the favorite books that students have. We try and grab a couple of those to entice them to join.”

One big difference to the competition this year was the move to computers. In previous years students would write the answer to a question on a piece of paper and hold it up in the air. Not only did this use a lot of paper, it was also time-consuming. To change that, tests were made on Google Forms for students to answer the questions.

To make it to the finale, teams had to make it past the first two rounds. Teams had to correctly answer 20 of the 24 questions in round one and 15 of the 18 questions in round two.

In each of the first four battles, a Berger family member had been on the winning team. Sophie Berger won the first three years before aging out to the high school. Greta Berger was on the winning “Nerd Herd” team last year and was in one of the seven teams that made it to the finale.

In the end, the Berger family book battle dynasty was ousted by team “We Are Three”, consisting of Alyvia Hacker, Stella Albrecht, and James Groebner.

Tables as far as the eye can see work on problems during the fifth annual Battle of the Books Wednesday. This year there were 27 teams and 78 students, a big leap from the 10-12 teams and 30 students from the first battle.

Albrecht found “I Am Number Four” to be the hardest book because it was the longest and it was important to understand the book’s meaning. Groebner said “Aragon” was the most difficult because, as a fantasy novel, it had a lot of different unique names and odd spellings.

To come out on top is no easy feat. Albrecht said they were able to come up with a winning strategy.

“We all split up the books,” she said. “Once we were finished with our four we would go read some of the other six so we were all aware and [could] answer more.”

As the winners basked in their glory, Albrecht and Groebner agreed coming out on top was a special feeling.

“It feels really empowering and special,” Albrecht said.

“It feels almost not real to me,” Groebner said.

But winning wasn’t everything. They all agreed they came into the competition to have fun and do their best, regardless of the outcome. Each of them had their takeaways as to what they enjoyed most about the battle.

“I like the competition,” Hacker said.

“I enjoy being able to connect with my friends and read with them,” Albrecht said.

“I like that it opens me up to new books, gets me out of my comfort zone, and I can spend time with my friends,” Groebner said.

As the winners, each member received a medal and the team received a place on the winner’s plaque next to the teams of yesteryear.


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