Seven kingdoms did final battle. Only one could win.
The war of words pitted 35 teams against one another, sometimes schoolmates fighting amongst themselves, until finally the battlefield was yielded to the finalists in the annual School District 57 Battle of The Books.
Many of the participating schools entered two teams, each comprised of three students who had won their local joust to earn the spot. They came from all over the city and region, the farthest being Morfee Elementary School in Mackenzie who trekked to this grand tournament.
After two preliminary rounds, the seven emergent armies were Beaverly 1, Heather Park 1, Heather Park 2, Lac Des Bois 1, Peden Hill 1, Southridge 2 and the host Blackburn 1 squad. There were six positions allocated for the finals, but a tie allowed one extra this year.
The teams of three were lined up at desks facing the tournament officials and the audience of about 100 parents, teachers, students and other enthusiasts. The officials would ask a question that pertained to one of the 10 titles on the Battle of The Books reading list. Each team would raise a card emblazoned with the title they believed to be correct. The judges would take note of those answers, and the team with the highest number of accurate responses after 20 questions was deemed the winner.
When the ink dust settled, Lac Des Bois was third, Heather Park 2 was second and the winner was the team from Beaverly.
All the prizes were denominations of gift certificates to Books & Company.
"It's great that the prizes are books, because these are readers, these are kids who really connect with books," said one of the event's longtime coordinators, Tina Cousins, a teacher librarian at Vanway Elementary School. She called the Battle of The Books "a great celebration of reading."
Teacher Shawn Ponto agrees and has been putting months of effort into it, as the co-coach of the winning Beaverly Elementary School team along with teacher-librarian Sarah Goudal.
"It gives them a chance to read a lot of books. It's great for their comprehension, and you always pick up knowledge of some kind whenever you read," Ponto said. "We had about 10 kids involved, we had a school battle to determine the Top 6, and I'm pretty proud of how it turned out for them."
Addie Scheck, 13, read nine of the 10 books on the list, and felt prepared when the competition started.
"I really enjoy reading, it's one of my favourite things to do," she said. "I have done the Battle of The Books two years before so I knew it would be fun."
Dylan Kennedy, 13, was also on the winning team.
"I have a fairly good memory, so I didn't think being ready for the questions would be too hard, but I got nervous. It is nerve-wracking when you have to come up with the answers from the quotes." He prepared by reading eight of the 10 books.
The youngest member of the team, 11-year-old Carmen Aubichon, said she, too, was "quite nervous at the start, but it was actually quite fun once it was happening." As the questions came at them and they had to huddle up to determine which book they thought was correct, the pressure mounted but Aubichon "didn't think of it as scary. It was happening too fast."
She read all 10 books on the list.
The Battle of The Books questions all came from one of the following books: From Ant to Eagle, by Alex Lyttle; A True Home, by Kallie George; The Lotterys Plus One, by Emma Donoghue; Inside Hudson Pickle, by Yolanda Ridge; Dominion, by Shane Arbuthnott; Clara Humble: Quiz Whiz, by Anna Humphrey; Mine, by Natalie Hyde; The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library, by Linda Bailey; The Painting, by Charis Cotter; and Innocent Heros, by Sigmund Brouwer. All are up for this year's Red Cedar Book Awards.
One of the authors, Yolanda Ridge, was in attendance at the battle, giving the participants an extra thrill as they competed.
"She will be doing school tours this week, so we are very grateful that she's here in our district for this event," said Cousins.
Blackburn Elementary School was announced as the host for next year's Battle of The Books, to allow their learnings from this year to transfer ahead.