Chess Rumble

( 4 )

Overview

Three moves is all it takes to change the outcome of the game.

In Marcus's world, battles are fought everyday—on the street, at home, and in school. Angered by his sister's death and his father's absence, and pushed to the brink by a bullying classmate, Marcus fights back with his fists.

One punch away from being kicked out of school and his home, Marcus encounters CM, an unlikely chess master who challenges him to fight his battles on the ...

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Overview

Three moves is all it takes to change the outcome of the game.

In Marcus's world, battles are fought everyday—on the street, at home, and in school. Angered by his sister's death and his father's absence, and pushed to the brink by a bullying classmate, Marcus fights back with his fists.

One punch away from being kicked out of school and his home, Marcus encounters CM, an unlikely chess master who challenges him to fight his battles on the chess board. Guarded and distrusting, Marcus must endure more hard lessons before he can accept CM's help to regain control of his life.

Inspired by inner-city school chess enrichment programs, Chess Rumble explores the ways this strategic game empowers young people with the skills they need to anticipate and calculate their moves through life.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Marcus lives in an inner city neighborhood where battles are fought every day--on street corners, in the park, at school. His life had been tolerable when his sister was alive and his dad was at home, but his sister died and his grieving dad just up and left. Now Marcus is living with his mom and his younger twin brothers and nothing is working out for him. He is close to being expelled when the school nurse introduces him to CM, a chess master. CM challenges Marcus to a game, but Marcus upsets the board, sending the pieces flying, and leaves, reinforcing his self-image as a loser. His temper explodes when his mom tries to talk to him. Then his dad tells him in a telephone call that he has to be the man of the house. It is just too much for Marcus to deal with. Then one day he sees CM playing chess at the edge of the neighborhood basketball court with some guys his age. This time Marcus agrees to play and he becomes hooked on bettering his game. He learns that three moves is all it takes to change the outcome. Lessons Marcus learns while playing chess spill over into other areas of his life and he accepts CM as his mentor. The story is told in street language with a concise format that verges on being poetic. Black-and-white illustrations contribute to the intensity of Marcus’s challenges. A tribute to the value of chess playing for middle grade students. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D.
School Library Journal

Gr 5-8

"In my 'hood, battles is fought every day," quips Marcus, an angry middle schooler on the brink of big trouble. His words, rife with frustration, tumble across page after page in free-flowing verse as he paints a picture of his quickly fading innocence. In the short time since his sister's death, memories of eating ice cream and giggling have been replaced by the bleak reality of a persistent bully, fist fights, and an absent dad. After begrudgingly meeting CM, Chess Master, the school's "bad dude" chess club adviser, an extended "battle" metaphor unfolds, concluding as Marcus takes responsibility for his own actions and moves his fighting off the street and onto the chessboard. While the plot undeniably follows a certain predictability, Chess Rumble works, and works well. Neri expertly captures Marcus's voice and delicately teases out his alternating vulnerability and rage. The cadence and emotion of the verse are masterfully echoed through Watson's expressive acrylic illustrations. Blacks, whites, and grays echo the concrete world of Marcus's urban home and, even more so, his despairing mood. Scattered chess pieces evoke the crescendo of the boy's temper. The closing scene tenderly catches tough-guy Marcus in a smile as he pounds fists with CM before sitting down to do battle, a stark contrast to his opening image, one dominated entirely by his fist. This book will become a standby pick for reluctant readers, who will be pulled in before they know it by the story's quick pace and the authenticity of Marcus's voice and experience.-Jill Heritage Maza, Greenwich High School, CT

Kirkus Reviews
"Battles is fought every day" in 11-year-old Marcus's 'hood. Not only has his father abandoned the family, but his sister has recently died, leaving him frustrated, angry and ready to fight-even with his worried, red-eyed mother and his younger twin brothers. Just as his volatility starts to get him into real trouble, Marcus meets a Yoda-like chess master and ex-con in the school library who challenges him to a game of chess. At first, Marcus's "opening move" is to hurl the chessboard groundward, but in time, he learns to master the game-and his temper. Marcus tells his story in street slang, in a conversational first-person voice. (While the narrative is presented as free verse, the lines break more randomly than poetically.) The acrylic black-and-white illustrations are particularly effective at capturing natural expressions and the concrete-gray inner-cityscape, though the abundant chess imagery that surfaces in unlikely places feels overdone. There's plenty of powerful emotion here, but the heavy dose of life lessons leaves the overall effort a few moves short of a checkmate. (Fiction/poetry. 9-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781584302797
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/28/2007
  • Pages: 64
  • Sales rank: 201,579
  • Age range: 10 years
  • Lexile: 610L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

G. Neri is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, and new media producer from Los Angeles, where he also worked with inner-city youth. He is the recipient of the International Reading Association Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award and Chess Rumble was recognized as an ALA Notable Children's Book. Neri now lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida with his wife and their daughter.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2008

    Checkmate

    A stellar debut for newcomer Greg Neri. His free verse prose creates powerful images and will grip readers. The mark of a superb writer, Neri manages to create deep characters that many young readers will see themselves reflected in. The story arc is relatable and real, and manages to speak of life lessons and responsibility without being preachy. The art of Jesse Watson is a perfect marriage to Neri's prose, with beautifully rendered illustrations that carry emotional impact and carve out a realistic setting. With its slick cover design, sharp illustrations and street vernacular prose, 'Chess Rumble' will appeal to reluctant urban readers , particularly middle school age boys. Instantly earned a spot of prominence on my bookcase.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2007

    A reviewer

    I love books that convincingly take the reader along on the protagonist's journey from deeply troubled and disconnected to enlightened and hopeful. This is just such a book. Writer G. Neri has a voice you won't soon forget. And Jesse Joshua Watson's images fit that voice perfectly, adding resonance.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2007

    I Love This Book

    I heard about this book online and it really blew my socks off. I am a middle grade teacher with lots of African American students. A lot of my boys do not like to read. But this one they responded to. In fact, a few of them started playing chess because of it, so now we have a little chess club going. This is a beautiful book, somber and full of rage, tragic but full of hope. There is a real catharsis at the end. One of my students said: I love this book so much! And so do I!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

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