Title: Chess Rumble
Author: G. Neri
Illustrator: Jesse Joshua Watson
Publisher: Lee & Low Books
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level: 3.5
Concepts: poverty, scarcity, human resources
Review: Chess Rumble provides a gripping and moving account of an eleven-year old boy’s struggles with living in poverty in a single-parent household after the death of his sister. Plagued by feelings of rage and provoked by his younger brothers’ antics and the taunts of his classmate, Marcus uses his fists as a coping device. Of course fighting makes his problems worse to the point where he risks getting kicked out of school and having to leave home.
His bleak situation changes for the better when the school principal introduces Marcus to a chess master who has a program at the school that encourages troubled youth to fight their battles on the chessboard. Marcus does not take to the chess master or the program right away, but a particularly nasty fight and a visit to his sister’s gravesite convince him to give the chess master another chance. Based on real inner-city enrichment programs that teach kids how to play chess, this book shows how a unique social program can help children to develop new skills, meet new people, and begin to overcome disadvantaged economic circumstances. This fast-paced and intriguing book is bound to hold the attention of most young readers as they get a good dose of important lessons in economics, sociology, and social policy.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children