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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Well-meaning and with a lovely presentation, this sentimental effort may be aimed more at adults than kids.


Little girls are given encouragement and assurance so they can meet the challenges of life as they move through the big, wide world.

Delicately soft watercolor-style art depicts naturalistic scenes with a diverse quintet of little girls portraying potential situations they will encounter, as noted by a narrative heavily dependent on a series of clichés. “The stars are high, and you can reach them,” it promises as three of the girls chase fireflies under a star-filled night sky. “Oceans run deep, and you will learn to swim,” it intones as one girl treads water and another leans over the edge of a boat to observe life on the ocean floor. “Your feet will take many steps, my brave little girl. / Let your heart lead the way.” Girls gingerly step across a brook before making their way through a meadow. The point of all these nebulous metaphors seems to be to inculcate in girls the independence, strength, and confidence they’ll need to succeed in their pursuits. Trying new things, such as foods, is a “delicious new adventure.” Though the quiet, gentle text is filled with uplifting words that parents will intuitively relate to or comprehend, the esoteric messages may be a bit sentimental and ambiguous for kids to understand or even connect to. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-19-inch double-page spreads viewed at 50% of actual size.)

Well-meaning and with a lovely presentation, this sentimental effort may be aimed more at adults than kids. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30072-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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