The fingers were poised over the buzzers, flags ready to be waved in the air to signal they had the answers on the tip of their tongues.
The National Library - a place you might associate with silence - was alive with the sound of 64 children from 16 schools across the country yesterday, battling it out to be national champions of the Kids' Lit Quiz, an annual competition about literature.
Even the childrens' concentration seemed to generate noise in the library's grand hall.
Often the quizmaster wouldn't get past a few words indicating the beginning of a book, "She couldn't sleep..." and like lightening, buzzer after buzzer would be struck and the first school to push would have their answer at the ready, "The BFG".
It didn't always go that way though, as some of the 10 to 13-year-old children choked when under the spotlight, and the silence between receiving the microphone and muttering "pass" could be excruciating.
Even harder to witness was the children answering the questions just slightly wrong and having their win snatched by another team.
The pressure, it seems, was tough for the kids, "I'm scared out of my wits," 12-year-old Calum Sinclair confessed, "It's fun, but it's really scary, especially when you're tying for first."
Calum's nerves were shared by his three team mates Kathleen Clunie, Toni Adams and Hazel Maguire from Whanganui Intermediate, who came second.
But according to Kathleen that soon dissipates.
"When you get into it it sort of gets really fun and, like, enjoyable."
This group of children average a book a day, sometimes even as many as 10 books a week.
And they were not to be outdone by their competitors, who made the journey to the capital from as far afield as Northland and Southland.
Wellesley College from Wellington took out the championship for the second year in a row.
The team of 12 year olds - Ben Mitchell, Max Moir, Harry Hampton and Jack Morrah - had sophisticated practising techniques which included memorising authors' names, births and most memorable books.
The school's librarian and team coach, Mrs Kent, would read out the beginning of a book or summarise an author's life and the team members would compete with each other to be the first to answer.
Jack suggested branching out of their comfort zone also helped with the team's win.
"Instead of just reading classics and World War II fiction or whatever you're interested in you go out and read girlie books."
Harry agrees, saying he went from his usual diet of Terry Pratchett to Stacy Gregg's The Princess and the Foal "not something I'd normally read."
The Kids' Lit Quiz was started in New Zealand by Wayne Mills in 1991 and since then it has grown internationally.
"We were a sports-mad country, I didn't see children being rewarded for reading and I thought well this might inspire kids to read and recognise good readers."
Wellesley College will go to Toronto next month to compete against schools from 11 countries including Australia, South Africa, the United States, and Singapore.