Who Wins? Created by Clay Swartz and Illustrated by Tom Booth

[Reviewed from copy sent courtesy of Workman Publishing]

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Who Wins? 100 Historical Figures Go Head-to-Head and You Decide the Winner is possibly one of the funniest, actively engaging, passionately debatable, and entertainingly informative biographies you may ever read.

We have been reading and playing Who Wins? since July and it is absolutely fantastic. Here’s how this book works.  The book is spiral bound with three separate sections.  On the left and right sections there are 50 different historical figures with a long list of traits and numerical values assigned to them. There’s a wide variety of historical figures from all different continents, cultures, eras, and backgrounds.  The twist that makes this book so much fun and different than other biographies I’ve seen is that in the center section there are 50 fun and anachronistic scenarios that you wouldn’t normally associate with the chosen individuals: babysitting, zombie hunting, air guitar, preparing an elegant dinner, etc.

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So in one instance you could pit William Shakespeare and Jane Goodall against each other, evaluate their wealth, fitness, wisdom, bravery, artistry, leadership, and intelligence and then decide who could best prepare an elegant dinner, live in 10,000 BC, escape Alcatraz, graduate from Hogwarts, or keep a goldfish alive, etc.  Above each figure is a brief and fascinating biography along with a list of little-known facts that you can read to help defend your position and learn more about the person.

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We have so much fun reading and debating this book!

It is surprisingly fun to agree or passionately disagree with the numerical values placed for various attributes and then debate crazy situations. I had no idea that I would get so worked up and regularly disagree with the values that the author has given to different people. For example, Nellie Bly only gets a 9/10 for Bravery!  A travesty! She let herself be locked into a mental institution in 1887 and traveled around the world in 1889 alone! And she only gets a 9? Come on! But that’s part of the fun and energy of this book.

Who Wins? will make you laugh, make you think, make you wholeheartedly disagree, and then make you want to learn more about these amazing people.

My two-year-old son is enamored with the flaps and illustrations and will just flip through it and ask me who the people are. I’m not sure what exactly he understands, but that doesn’t seem to stop him from enjoying it.  He’ll repeat the names of people and always agree with me. (Except if he’s fighting a nap, and then he’ll disagree with everything I say.) I’ve found my littlest one many times just looking through the book on his own in the living room.  He asks lots of questions and clearly enjoys having me read it to him.

My six-year-old son is very funny with this book.  He also loves it and gets very interested as my husband and I try to convince him who would make the best vampire hunter or be a member of the Avengers.  He’s heard of several of the historical figures, but most of them are new to him – and what a great way for him to learn.  He enjoys having me read the biographies of the different figures and sometimes we’ve gotten off on tangents and I’ve shown him videos of Jane Goodall, had to explain to him what Area 51 is, and demonstrated air guitar. All worthy and fantastic conversations to have with him.

I’m impressed with how concise and still thorough the biographies are.  The little-known facts at the end of each biography give a perfect memory anchor.

Who Wins? will be even more fun as my kids get older and they learn about different figures, start forming their own opinions about bravery, intelligence, leadership, artistry and the like. For now, it is a hilarious and factual introduction to a wide range of people who have influenced our world.

I really hope you get a chance to experience this book and play Who Wins? It effortlessly and humorously turns historical figures into relatable, memorable, and fascinating human beings.

Recommended Ages 8 to 12++. Workman Publishing. July 2016. 104 pages. ISBN: 978-0761185444 Non-Fiction/Speculative/Humor.

Where to Get it:

Author and Illustrator Websites:

More Reviews:

Where Obtained:  I received a review copy from the publisher. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.

FTC Disclosures:  Some of the links in the post above are Amazon affiliate links and others are IndieBound affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase something, I will receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Which goes to fund my family’s picture book habit.  It’s a vicious cycle, but we manage.

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