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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Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet!


From the Ryan Hart series , Vol. 1

Ryan Hart is navigating the fourth grade and all its challenges with determination.

Her mom named her Ryan because it means “king,” and she wanted Ryan to feel powerful every time she heard her name; Ryan knows it means she is a leader. So when changes occur or disaster strikes, budding chef Ryan does her best to find the positive and “make sunshine.” When her dad is laid off from the post office, the family must make adjustments that include moving into a smaller house, selling their car, and changing how they shop for groceries. But Ryan gets to stay at Vernon Elementary, and her mom still finds a way to get her the ingredients she needs to practice new recipes. Her older brother, Ray, can be bossy, but he finds little ways to support her, especially when she is down—as does the whole family. Each episodic chapter confronts Ryan with a situation; intermittently funny, frustrating, and touching, they should be familiar and accessible to readers, as when Ryan fumbles her Easter speech despite careful practice. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and Watson continues to bring visibility to both Portland, Oregon, generally and its Black community specifically, making another wonderful contribution that allows Black readers to see themselves and all readers to find a character they can love.

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0056-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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