Tag Archives: Mary Katherine Hocking

Good Vs. Evil: Staples Students Decide

March Madness was so last month. The other day, Staples High School crowned a winner in its annual Book Bracket tournament.

Modeled on the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball events — but without the betting — it’s a chance for students and staff to weigh in on their literary favorites.

They vote for each round. Winners advance, their progress tracked on large posters and email updates from organizer Katherine Hocking of the English Department.

Every year there’s a theme. Two of the most popular: Favorite Book Ever (To Kill a Mockingbird was the champ) and Best Book to Movie Adaptation (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone).

This year’s theme: Literary Heroes and Villains. Jenn Cirino, Nicole Moeller and the library staff created a bulletin board display near the cafeteria with QR codes to vote.

Among the most interesting matchups: in the Heroes bracket, #13 Odysseus vs. #20 Matilda; #5 Atticus Finch vs. #28 Harry Potter. On the Villains side: #3 Sauron vs. #30 Pennywise, and #14 Hannibal Lecter vs. #19 Lady Macbeth.

Would good triumph over evil? Or were villains more fun to root for?

And the winner is ……………..

……….. Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games) prevailed over Lord Voldemort (Harry Potter). The “girl on fire” won handily, 78-38.

Score one for the good guys!

Katniss Everdeen: Book Bracket champion!

Staples Books Its Own March Madness

Last year, as Villanova battled its way through March Madness to the NCAA basketball championship, the Staples High School English department conducted its own bracket.

To Kill a Mockingbird beat out fellow Final 4 contenders Pride and Prejudice, The Diary of Anne Frank and 1984 to win the first-ever Favorite Book Ever tournament.

Mary Katherine Hocking

‘Nova did not repeat as 2019 champs. Nor did Harper Lee’s classic novel.

In the case of the Wildcats, they weren’t good enough. But for the books, they changed the rules.

This year’s contest — organized by teachers Mary Katherine Hocking and Rebecca Marsick, with help from Tausha Bridgeforth and the Staples library staff — was for Best Book to Movie Adaptation.

Thirty-two contenders were chosen. Voting was done online. Large bracket posters near the English department and library kept interest high.

As always, there were surprises. Some classic book/film combinations — like The Godfather — fell early. Others that Hocking expected to be less popular (Twilight, Little Women) battled hard.

The field ranged far and wide, from Romeo and Juliet and Gone With the Wind to Lord of the Flies and Frankenstein.

Hocking’s email updates to students and staff were fun to read. Before the final — after Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone crushed The Hunger Games, and The Princess Bride edged The Help — she wrote: “The moment we’ve all been waiting for! Westley versus Weasley, Vizzini versus Voldemort, Humperdinck versus Hermione.”

We’ll let Hocking announce the winner.

She wrote:

The Princess Bride has taken a rogue bludger to the head, losing to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. With a final score of 94-49, this year’s House Cup, Quidditch World Cup, Triwizard Cup all go to Harry Potter and Queen JK.

Remember, one can never have enough socks, and one can never have enough books to fill the time.  Please check out any or all of these books from your local library as we head into spring break.

She and Marsick are already planning next year’s contest.


Staples Books Its Own Final Four

Earlier this month Villanova, Michigan, Kansas and Loyola held America spellbound, as they battled for the NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship.

But that was nothing compared to the halls of Staples High School. There, it was a fight to finish for the first-ever title of Favorite Book Ever.

Who would win? Weeks of voting had whittled 64 contenders down to the Final Four: Fahrenheit 451, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Just like in San Antonio, the semifinals produced an intriguing mix of old standbys and surprising newcomers. Some top seeds won; others advanced through upsets.

The contest was organized by Mary Katherine Hocking. A few years ago, the English teacher saw a similar idea on Pinterest.

But which books? She found Business Insider’s “100 Books to Read in a Lifetime” — and used the top 64.

Those choices may be less controversial than that used by the NCAA selection committee.

Or more. There are a lot more great books than good Division I men’s basketball teams.

The top 4 seeds were — in order — To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, The Diary of Anne Frank and 1984.

Like the NCAA’s tournament, the rest of the field was all over the map. The Old Man and the Sea, Huck Finn, Night, Hamlet, The Giver, Frankenstein, Catch-22, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Color Purple, Anna Karenina, Lord of the Flies — all (and dozens more) had a chance to advance.

Game on!

Hocking sent email blasts to students and staff. She used Twitter and Instagram too. The Staples library’s Twitter feed, the TV show “Good Morning Staples,” the school paper Inklings, and colleague Rebecca Marsick’s Instagram also helped spread the word.

Hocking had no idea who would respond. It was, she admits, a somewhat nerdy concept. But votes poured in.

Each round drew more interest. In addition to regular email updates from Hocking, an enormous bracket in the English hallway stirred plenty of conversation.

“Students seemed really engaged,” she says. “They were eager to find out what was next.”

She expected the Lord of the Rings trilogy to advance far. It’s a popular book (and film) series. But it fell in the Sweet 16 to Fahrenheit 451.

“That was a surprise,” Hocking says. “Far fewer kids have read that one.”

From the first round on, To Kill a Mockingbird was the team to beat. It kept winning, by huge margins.

Favorites, of course, don’t always win.

But Harper Lee’s 58-year-old novel about prejudice and integrity in a small Southern town knocked off the much more recent Harry Potter fantasy.

That set up a highly anticipated championship match, between 2 American classics: Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby.

Did F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Westport connection propel him to victory? Or, in these days of great focus on racial inequality, did Staples voters go with that dramatic tale?

And the winner is ……………….






To Kill a Mockingbird.

It’s a worthy champion.

But it won’t be back to defend its title next year.

Unlike basketball Final Four, Hocking is looking for 64 entirely new contenders.

Perhaps the best young adult books of all time? Or the best non-fiction works?

Bring it!

The Final 4, on display at Staples High School.