The Great G.O.A.T. Debate: The Best of the Best in Everything from Sports to Science

Rowman & Littlefield. Mar. 2022. 184p. Tr $30. ISBN 9781538153154.
Gr 5-8–“Greatest of all time” arguments are commonplace among students and a burgeoning subgenre of G.O.A.T. books, particularly sports biographies, bears this out. What sets this title apart is not only the breadth of subjects considered but the debater’s manual included inside. In 27 brief chapters, Volponi doesn’t provide answers so much as he prods readers to consider what exactly is being discussed, what quality or achievement sets a person apart in a given field. In addition, each chapter includes a “Time to Debate” section encouraging readers, for example, to explain their reasoning, anticipate counter-arguments, remain calm and polite, and even to consider style elements like anaphora, the repetition of a word or phrase, such as in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. A few of the figures profiled are less well known (professional wrestler Mildred Burke) and some of the subjects are uncommonly debated (Hollywood stunt people). But there are chapters and arguments for many of the more popular sports and entertainment rivalries, though none for soccer. Photos of many of the subjects, as well as other illustrations, such as stamps depicting Jim Thorpe and Babe Didrikson Zaharias, are present throughout. Included are several pages of source notes and citations, though many quotations are disappointingly sourced to a website that provides no context or direct citations. Each chapter is rich with suggestions for further study.
VERDICT Recommended for elementary and middle school libraries. Readers will come for the debates and stay for the critical-thinking skills.–

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