The discovery, education, and nurturing of a young chess prodigy are detailed in photojournalistic style. Michael Thaler put together a puzzle of the United States at age two. At four, at the end of his first chess lesson, the boy was hooked. His parents realized their son's tremendous potential and love of the game and decided to do everything necessary to develop his talent. Chess lessons and tournaments became part of his weekly schedule and before he started Kindergarten, he had already won a trophy in the kindergarten division. Michael became the youngest member of his school's chess club and soon defeated older members of the club. The youngster gives the reader seven lessons that work for him. Among them are prepare, respect your opponent, focus on the game, learn how to win and how to lose (losing is an opportunity to learn), be patient, and chess isn't everything. Michael's story ends with his participation in a national tournament that he attends with his father. Before the first match, they analyze his past games and review Michael's thought processes as he played. Three games are reviewed, move by move. Those who do not understand chess notation can read the text that explains Michael's strategies, but may not be interested in this section. Michael does win the tournament and the cover illustration shows him standing with a trophy taller than he is. An epilogue by Michael's father gives advice to other parents of talented youngsters. An interesting story enhanced by photographs, which will appeal to the chess-playing family. (Nonfiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-316-91339-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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From the Lemonade War series , Vol. 1

Told from the point of view of two warring siblings, this could have been an engaging first chapter book. Unfortunately, the length makes it less likely to appeal to the intended audience. Jessie and Evan are usually good friends as well as sister and brother. But the news that bright Jessie will be skipping a grade to join Evan’s fourth-grade class creates tension. Evan believes himself to be less than clever; Jessie’s emotional maturity doesn’t quite measure up to her intelligence. Rivalry and misunderstandings grow as the two compete to earn the most money in the waning days of summer. The plot rolls along smoothly and readers will be able to both follow the action and feel superior to both main characters as their motivations and misconceptions are clearly displayed. Indeed, a bit more subtlety in characterization might have strengthened the book’s appeal. The final resolution is not entirely believable, but the emphasis on cooperation and understanding is clear. Earnest and potentially successful, but just misses the mark. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 23, 2007

ISBN: 0-618-75043-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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Patchy work, both visually and teleologically.


The sultana of high-fructose sentimentality reminds readers that they really are all that.

Despite the title, we’re actually here for a couple of reasons. In fulsome if vague language Tillman embeds one message, that acts of kindness “may triple for days… / or set things in motion in different ways,” in a conceptually separate proposition that she summarizes thus: “perhaps you forgot— / a piece of the world that is precious and dear / would surely be missing if you weren’t here.” Her illustrations elaborate on both themes in equally abstract terms: a lad releases a red kite that ends up a sled for fox kits, while its ribbons add decorative touches to bird nests and a moose before finally being vigorously twirled by a girl and (startlingly) a pair of rearing tigers. Without transition the focus then shifts as the kite is abruptly replaced by a red ball. Both embodied metaphors, plus children and animals, gather at the end for a closing circle dance. The illustrator lavishes attention throughout on figures of children and wild animals, which are depicted with such microscopically precise realism that every fine hair and feather is visible, but she then floats them slightly above hazy, generic backdrops. The overall design likewise has a slapdash feel, as some spreads look relatively crowded with verses while others bear only a single line or phrase.

Patchy work, both visually and teleologically. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05626-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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