Nepean High School hosts its own Battle of the Books

By Bella Crysler – 

This semester at Nepean High School, Ms. Claudette Phillips and her grade 12 World Issues class have organized their very own Battle of the Books, based on the CBC’s Canada Reads campaign. 

“What we’ve done is chosen six books that we think are topical books right now that address some of the issues in the world and in Canada as well,” says Ms. Phillips. Students in the class have chosen a novel from the list, curated by Ms. Phillips and Nepean’s new librarian, Ms. Cathy MacKechnie, they are reading, discussing, debating, and eventually campaigning for the one they think deserves to win the battle.

Nepean High School’s new librarian, Ms. Cathy MacKechnie, and World Issues teacher Ms. Claudette Phillips. Photo by Bella Crysler

The six books are:

  • Six Months in Sudan: A Young Doctor in a War-Torn Village by James Maskalyk
  • The Right to be Cold: One Woman’s Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet, by Sheila Watt-Cloutier
  • The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith, by Irshad Manji
  • Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City, by Tanya Talaga
  • War, Guns and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places, by Paul Collier
  • A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout and Sarah Corbett

World Issues is a geography-based course with a focus on social issues, economic issues, and geopolitical issues. The topics learned about in class vary year-to-year depending on what is happening in the world. Class time is also spent discussing possible solutions to world issues. 

“We are looking for students to recognize, not that the world is this awful and depressing place, but what things can they do to make change,” says Ms. Phillips. 

Ms. Phillips is personally a fan of Canada Reads and is excited about the class project.

“My biggest take away from this is the enthusiasm for reading and the enthusiasm for debate, as well as engaging in discussion about world issues from a perspective of what people are saying and what books are out there,” she says.

Anna Mercier, Molly Goodman, and Ella Jackson-Cappuccino are among the Nepean HS students who are reading, discussing, debating, and campaigning for the book they think deserves to win the Battle of the Books. Photo by Bella Crysler

Students are also enthusiastic about the project and the books they have chosen. “I’m pretty excited to learn about my book, which is about how more poor and corrupt countries get that way and how they can kind of get out of the cycle and become maybe an economic power or at least a safer country with better human rights,” says Nepean student, Rowan Jackson–Cappuccino.

Nepean student Anna Mercier says one of the most challenging aspects of the assignment will be presenting their book to classmates and campaigning for the one they think should win. “Getting up in front of 60 students to battle out the books will be pretty nerve racking,” she says.

Ms. MacKechnie, is enthusiastic about her role in the Battle of the Books. 

“I’m brand new to the school so I’m excited to collaborate with the World Issues class and bring back these book clubs,” says Ms. MacKechnie. “I think it’s important to do these books clubs in classes other than English.”

It will be exciting to see which book reigns victorious when the student debates and campaigns are complete. Want to read along? All of the books on the list are available at Nepean’s school library and at the Ottawa Public Library. 

Bella Crysler is a grade 12 student at Nepean High School.


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