From Shakespeare to Harry Potter, these kids are world-class experts on books

For the first time in 26 years Canada hosted the final eight teams from around the world in the championship competition of the Kid’s Lit Quiz in Oakville, Ont. on Monday. The contest is meant to test the literature knowledge of kids aged 10-13.

The Kids' Lit Quiz World Finals lands in Canada for the first time in 26 years

From left to right, Grace Ratelband, India Morrish, Gavin Liu, Hongjae Noh and William Thompson relax before the Kids' Lit Quiz world finals in Oakville. (Sue Goodspeed/CBC)

School may be out for the summer but some kids are putting their reading skills to the test.

For the first time in 26 years, Canada hosted eight teams from around the world for the Kid's Lit Quiz World Final in Oakville on Monday.

The teams in the contest, which tests the literature knowledge of kids aged 10-13, are made up of voracious young readers who often choose books over video games.

Team Canada, a group of school kids from the Lee Academy in Lynden, Ont., show off their patriotism with custom-made shoes. (Sue Goodspeed/CBC)

This year, Team Canada is from the Lee Academy in Lynden, Ont., a small village near Hamilton. The academy's director, Allison Will, said because of the size and rural address of the school she considers her group of students the underdogs in this competition.

Team Canada's William Thompson, 12, has been in love with books since he was three. His mother started reading to him at night, and pretty soon he was reading to her.

William Thompson, 12, is competing in the Kids' Lit Quiz finals as a member of Team Canada. His love of books started when he was three. (Sue Goodspeed/CBC)

"I find that reading a book takes you into a different world. With all the serious stuff happening in the world I find I can just open a book and jump into a new world and just kind of explore," William told CBC Toronto.

Hongjae Noh is on Team South Africa. Like everyone else at this competition, Noh loves books. 

"It's just the feel of a book starting from the physical appearance, the paper, the ink, the smell of the book." the 12-year-old said.

"I had a teacher last year who said every book you read is a life you've lived; I really took that to heart."

Hongjae Noh, 12, has only ever travelled outside of South Africa once before coming to Canada. He is curious about how other people live and says he was struck by how comfortable Canadians are socially. (Sue Goodspeed/CBC)

The team from South Africa ended up taking the trophy. Each team member took home a gold medal and, of course, some books.

South Africa's team of all boys would have been an unusual sight when the competition started in 1991. Then the competitors were 60 per cent girls, but this year 80 per cent of the team members throughout the yearly regional competitions have been boys.

Founder and quizmaster, Wayne Mills, says the fact that he pushes to make the game inclusive of all types of genres, including fantasy and comic books which are often favourites for the boys, may be the reason young men have flocked to the competition.

"I acknowledge all forms of reading," said Mills, who is a New Zealander.

Mills himself grew up as a big reader. His father would supplement his habit by giving him 50 cents for every book he bought. It takes Mills a year to come up with the questions for the quiz. He has to read constantly to keep up with new fiction for young people. He had just read an entire novel on the plane ride over to Canada. 

Even though the kids in this competition read a lot of the same books we all do, they are exceptional for their wide-ranging tastes and detailed memories.

William Noh said his favourite category is the "opening line" round. Without prompting he recited the first sentence of German fantasy novelist Cornelia Funke's book Inkheart.

"Rain falls at night, a fine whispering rain."