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Battle of the Books is a contest of literary prowess

With a team name that is probably deserving to be a title of its own a popular fictional book, a group of Felida Elementary students won the city-wide Battle of the Books May 30 at the Vancouver Community Library branch of the Fort Vancouver Regional Library.

Fifth-grade students Stefen Carpenter, Adam Deeney, Kaleb Poe and Marilyn Ingalls, otherwise known as the Blood Sucking Mustache Defenders, defeated the Marshall Generals of Marshall Elementary in the finals. Both teams went up against squads from Eisenhower, Felida, Hazel Dell, Marshall, Ogden and Salmon Creek elementary schools throughout the tournament.

More than a win, though, the event was an opportunity for the top elementary schools in Vancouver Public Schools to demonstrate their literary comprehension about seven books. In a tournament format, the Jeopardy-style game had students feverishly squeezing a buzzer to answer questions based on the following books: NERDS by Michael Buckley, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck, Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger and A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park.

“We love doing this,” said Mary VanderPloeg, teacher librarian at Hazel Dell Elementary School, who helped to run the tournament. “Promoting reading is one of a librarian’s favorite things.”

The win by the Blood Sucking Mustache Defenders was a relief, they said. The same four members teamed up last year.

“We feel pretty good,” Deeney said. “Last year, we were here and got third place, so it feels good to get first.”

Last year, however, the team had a different name. They were known then as the Blood Sucking Olympus Defenders. They made the name change this year because it had to relate to one of the seven books on the reading list. This year, they noticed Angleberger’s Fake Mustache was on the list.

“So this year, we changed it to mustache,” Poe said, smiling.

It might have been the most inventive name in the tournament.

“We got that last year, too,” Deeney said, laughing.

The team went undefeated in the double-elimination tournament up until the finals, meaning an opponent would have to defeat the Felida team in consecutive matches. In the championship, Poe, Ingalls, Carpenter and Deeney lost a close 25-17 matchup to the Marshall Generals to force a final contest. The prize: a plaque with the team name, a backpack donated by Nike and at least two books for each teammate.

“I was scared,” Ingalls said, smiling.

Deeney said, “We didn’t want to get second coming back from third last year when we had a chance to get first.”

When the teams matched up again, the Felida squad took home the title with a 48-22 victory.

“It just felt good to be back, but to win was great,” Ingalls said.

With second place under their collective belts, the Marshall team was perhaps as impressive as their counterparts. The four-member team was comprised of three third-grade students, making the team’s ascent to the finals a remarkable accomplishment.

“That’s really amazing,” VanderPloeg said about the strong finish of the young team.

Saturday marked the end of the road for the Felida quartet, though. While Ingalls will head to Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, Carpenter, Deeney and Poe will head to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, where the Battle of the Books program also exists.

“We’ll probably keep on competing there,” said Deeney.