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The Readers of Middle Earth team from Mountain View Middle School comes within a match of the title

After making their way through regional competition in Oregon Battle of the Books, four Mountain View Middle School students were just happy to participate at state. They never imagined they'd have a chance to finish second – which they did last week in Salem.SUBMITTED PHOTO
 - The MVMS team read 16 books as part of the Battle of the Books competition, then was tested on its comprehension.

Sixth grade students Jack Harris, Isaac Bikis and Thomas Weybright joined eight grade student R.J. Cross on the team; sixth grade student Diego Rodriguez served as the team's backup. The "Readers of Middle Earth" were tasked with 16 books to read during the competition and battled in tests of comprehension.

Their journey began in their own school's competition and progressed through regionals and state before they came within a match of a state title. Their coach, Jack Harris' mother Leigh Harris, said the team's second place finish is a testament to its dedication.

"They really came together in a great way and did great work and were supportive of each other," she said. "This is a smart group of boys who love to read."

Books on this year's list included "Absolutely Truly" by Heather Vogel Frederick, "Avenging the Owl" by Melissa Hart, "The Body in the Woods" by April Henry, "Cryptid Hunters" by Roland Smith, "Doll Bones" by Holly Black, "The Gauntlet" by Karuna Riazi, "Ghost" by Jason Reynolds, "I Will Always Write Back" by Caitlin Alifirenka & Martin Ganda, "The Luck Uglies" by Paul Durham, "My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights" by Brooks Benjamin, "Restart" by Gordon Korman, "Revenge of the Witch" by Joseph Delaney, "Small as an Elephant" by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, "The Sword of Summer" by Rick Riordan, "The Wishing Spell" by Chris Colfer and "Wolf Hollow" by Lauren Wolk.

The MVMS team read them all and had to be ready to answer detailed questions about characters, plot and other aspects of the story. They would practice three to four times a week at Harris's home.

"They were all really passionate about reading anyway," she said. "For them, this was a fun way to delve deeper into the books and a unique way to learn about characters and explore details you wouldn't otherwise think about."

The kids got to meet Melissa Hart – author of "Avenging the Owl" – at state. The competition itself was nerve-wracking, Harris said, and every time they won a battle it was cause for raucous celebration.

Harris said the sportsmanship displayed by the kids was impressive as well. They were "kind and gracious" to other teams as they made their way through the bracket and to the state title battle, she said.

Finishing second, she said, motivates the kids to keep participating in Battle of the Books. They want to bring a championship back to Newberg in 2020.

"It's already given them a bug of excitement to keep going with it," Harris said. "They've already started reading the books for next year. They're hoping to be back at the state competition next year to see how they do."

School briefs

Yamhill County Community connect event in May

McMINNVILLE – Yamhill County Community Connect will stage its Work Source Oregon/Job Fair from 2 to 6 p.m. May 29 in the Ted Wilson Gym at Linfield College. Services provided include medical assistance, emergency shelter information, energy assistance, weatherization, food support, medical screening, youth and family resources, veteran's assistance, mental health services, urgent dental care, hair cuts, pet care and more.

High school troupe will stage Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar'

The Newberg High School drama troupe will perform Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and April 25-27 at Drea Ferguson Auditorium at NHS. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for students.

Watershed project hosts symposium

The Chehalem Valley Watershed Project – a student-led conservation initiative at Newberg High School – will hold an open house event from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday in the main and west commons.

Several local environmental agencies and nonprofit agencies will be in attendance, providing informational booths, activities, games and displays focused around environmental awareness.

According to CVWP student ambassador Quentin Comus, the event is "family friendly" and open to those in the area interested in the environment.

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