Saturday, August 6, 2016

Who Wins?

Who Wins?
created by Clay Swartz; illustrated by Tom Booth
2016 (Workman Publishing)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

In this book, history is transformed into an imagination stirring game, as you pit some of the most colorful characters in history against each other in a series of hilarious hypothetical situations.

Let's get ready to ruuuuuumble!! 100 history heavyweights battle in 50 head-to-head showdowns. Who wins a slam dunk contest, George Washington or Leonardo Da Vinci? Washington is more athletic but Da Vinci gets the nod in artistry. Better at living on a space station, Queen Victoria or Confucius? Both are intelligent leaders but can Queen Victoria's wealth overcome the Chinese philosopher's edge in wisdom and fitness? Readers decide the winner of each of this clashes. This amusing flip book is divided into three parts. The two outside parts each contain 50 historical figures illustrated on the front with a biography on the back. The middle flip contains the challenge and the categories (wealth, fitness, wisdom, bravery, artistry, leadership, intelligence) in which each figure is ranked. Here is an example:

Deborah Sampson, who disguised herself as a man to fight in the American Revolutionary War, is facing Agustina De Aragon, who fought in the Spanish War of Independence. It's a pretty even match in this challenge of becoming a member of the Avengers. One of the great joys of this book is having students research one of these famous people and debating whether the author got it right with the rankings. Sports fans do this all the time when arguing about athletes. The current debate du jour is whether LeBron James can equal Michael Jordan. These debates fuel sports fans so why not do this with figures in history and drive research and knowledge? It's a brilliant idea. You can mix and match so there are a ton of permutations to be had.

This would be a smashing way to start off a study of biographies. You could share two familiar figures in a challenge with the whole class and have a debate. Then, you could assign students two lesser known people and have them do research and create rankings. They could see if their rankings matched the author's thoughts. It's also a good mentor text for writing a short biography. As the British would say, this is a cracking good history book!

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