TopBananaFifth grader Kaede Shimamura from Lyndon Town School in Lyndon, Vt. has defeated 15,000 other fourth through sixth graders throughout New England to win the 2017 U.S. Bananagrams Challenge. Shimamura has been crowned ‘Top Banana’ after triumphing over 11 other kids at the live Grand Final of the word tile game tournament, held on April 1 at the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket, R.I. home state of Bananagrams.

The challenge runner-ups were 5th grade students Fisher Luba from Lynnfield Middle School in Lynnfield, Mass. and Victoria Hancock from Broad Rock Middle school in Wakefield, R.I.

15,000 children in more than a hundred schools throughout New England competed in the classroom earlier this year. The best player from each school then went forward to compete in a series of online word games. The top 12 players stemming from the online portion played in the live Grand Final.

Kaede took home a specially-designed trophy, exclusive goody bag and a $1,000 check for her school, which was presented by Bananagrams Inc. CEO and co-inventor, Rena Nathanson.

The complete lists of finalist is:

  • Kristen Gregory, 6th, Clark Lane MIddle School, Waterford, CT
  • Kaede Shimamura, 5th, Lyndon Town School, Lyndon, VT
  • Gabe Victoria, 5th, Scotland Elementary School, Scotland, CT
  • Victoria Hancock, 5th, Broad Rock Middle School, Wakefield, RI
  • Hunter Crawford, 5th, Hooksett Memorial School, Hooksett, NH
  • Kayla Serverius, 5th, Newington Public School, Newington, NH
  • Benjamin Barilaro, 5th, Blueberry Hill School, Longmeadow, MA
  • Fisher Luba, 6th, Lynnfield Middle School, Lynnfield, MA
  • Brandon Aikman, 5th, The Master’s School, West Simsbury, CT
  • Alex Grillo, 5th, Hebron Elementary School, Hebron, CT
  • Keely Cahoon, 6th, Butler Elementary, Avon, MA
  • Victoria Ciardiello, 6th, Baldwin Middle School, Guilford, CT

As part of its mission to get children playing with words, Bananagrams, Inc. created the Challenge to help boost vocabulary and spelling skills in classrooms and after-school programs. More than 10,000 students took part in the inaugural U.S. tournament last year.

This year’s free-to-enter challenge was open to 750 schools and invited children in grades 4, 5, and 6 throughout New England to ‘Go Wild With Words’ by playing a series of Bananagrams games with fellow students. Through a simple process of elimination, each school identified its champion, who then competed in a series of online word-based games for one of 12 places at the Grand Finale.

Each school registered received a free Bananagrams Challenge Welcome Pack worth more than $50, which provided everything the teachers need to run their schools’ Challenge, including two Bananagrams games.