Harper (Snakes and Ladders, 1997) has produced an intense and eye-catching puzzle book intended to teach basic strategies of chess. Each full-color, double-page spread shows a chessboard courtyard in Chess City. The black king and queen have been “captured,” and the reader must move the different black pieces across each courtyard to the rescue. Each page is, actually, a maze; various pitfalls wait on squares, and readers have to figure out how to get each piece from the marked “start” to the “finish,” moving only as the piece allows. Except for the different patterns of movement then, each page employs the exact same strategy, making this more of a drill in piece movement than a book of actual chess strategies. Each chessboard courtyard is vastly larger than a real board’s 64 squares, and the perspective and busyness of the spreads may strain some eyes. The mazes are satisfyingly tricky, however, and puzzle-minded kids who are beyond Where’s Waldo should enjoy this for hours. A text box toward the end tells a little more about “The Game of Chess.” Although it doesn’t deliver all it promises in strategy and excitement, this is an enjoyable game book. (Nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7636-0921-8

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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Wholesome, uncomplicated fare for the younger Matt Christopher crowd.


From the Zach and Zoe Mysteries series , Vol. 1

Lupica kicks off a new series starring a pair of 8-year-old twins who solve sports-themed mysteries.

Even the pleasures of competing in various events during his school’s Spirit Week dim a smidge for Zach Walker when the prized autographed baseball he brings to his third-grade class for show and tell vanishes. Happily, his bookish but equally sports-loving sister, Zoe, is on the case, and by the time of the climactic baseball game at week’s end, she has pieced together clues and deductions that lead to the lost treasure—which had not been stolen but batted through an open window by the teacher’s cat and stashed in a storage shed by the custodian. In the co-published sequel, The Half-Court Hero, the equally innocuous conundrum hangs on the identity of the mysterious “guardian angel” who is fixing up a run-down playground basketball court. Along with plenty of suspenseful sports action, the author highlights in both tales the values of fair play, teamwork, and doing the “right thing.” The Walker family presents white, but in both the narrative and Danger’s appropriately bland (if inappropriately static) illustrations, the supporting cast shows some racial and ethnic diversity.

Wholesome, uncomplicated fare for the younger Matt Christopher crowd. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-425-28936-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Marcus and Mia Robinson, genial elementary-school–aged twins, are excited about meeting fictional NBA star Jason Carter. Mia is writing an article for her newspaper and Marcus, the budding basketball star, has won the honor of asking the class’s questions during a field trip to Giants Practice Day. Sometimes sounding more like motivational speaking than fiction, Richardson encourages her young audience to dream more than one dream. After Carter points out the obvious facts—that most athletes do not become professional athletes, athletes often get injured and athletes need to have other interests—young Marcus thinks more about his mathematical talents. Though it seems unlikely that a top NBA athlete would choose NCAA Division II Morehouse University (where, conveniently, Martin Luther King Jr. matriculated) over the NBA, cynicism should be put on hold for this feel-good lesson for the youngest reader. Engaging cover and black-and-white interior art will draw many fans, especially those elusive boy readers. Not quite a slam-dunk, but the straightforward, accessible story will invite them to stay for the end of the game. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-8037-3050-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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