Review of “Chess Rumble” by G. Neri

Eleven-year-old Marcus is an extremely troubled youth. His sister, with whom he was close, died the year before of a heart ailment. His father left. Marcus is big and gets teased and bullied about it – especially by a particularly mean kid named Latrell. He copes with his problems by either getting in fights or withdrawing from everyone.

After yet another fight in school, he is sent to the library to cool off. There he encounters “CM” or “Chess Master.” CM tries to teach Marcus chess, and show him the value in thinking ahead. He explains to Marcus:

“See, you think you’re a king, but you’re just a pawn. You’re not playing to your strengths. You got brains somewhere in that head a yours. You just gotta use ‘em.”

Marcus starts playing chess with CM every day after school, and starts to improve:

“Over the next month CM an’ me play every day after school. We even talk ‘bout stuff that’s botherin’ me, like Latrell an’ my sister, an’ Daddy not bein’ ‘round no more. He show me that all them chess pieces is like a family. That when one fall, the others carry on. They have to. But when one win, the whole family win.”

Marcus actually gets good enough to corral Latrell and challenge him to play. Pretty soon Latrell wants to learn also. CM tells Marcus he is starting a group of “chess warriors,” based on support and friendly competition rather than cruelty and violence. Marcus thinks he can do this, and even be good at it. CM tells him “Yeah, I think you’re figurin’ out your endgame.”

Evaluation: I love G. Neri. He has an outstanding ability to capture the anger and hurt and yearning and voice of poverty and broken families and gangs. He always makes me cry. A shout out too for Jesse Joshua Watson, whose illustrations are terrific.

Rating: 5/5

Published by Lee & Low Books, 2007

Product Details
Reading level: Ages 10 and up
Hardcover: 64 pages
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1584302798
ISBN-13: 978-1584302797

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8 Responses to Review of “Chess Rumble” by G. Neri

  1. Beth F says:

    First, I love the artwork. Wow. And the story and themes really grabbed me. I’ll be looking for this at the library.

  2. The illustrations and the few quotes from this book drew me in so quickly. I think this book would make me cry too. I will look for Neri,s books at the library too.

  3. Julie P. says:

    Wow! These illustrations are so powerful as are the passages you quoted. Thanks for sharing.

  4. BermudaOnion says:

    The illustrations in that book are fantastic! I wish there were more people like CM in the world.

  5. Jenny says:

    This sounds like a great book with a great message!! I never thought about tr analogy of chess like that. I need to look into this book… Maybe I could read it with some clients and teach them the little I know about how to play chess lol.

  6. Looks like it has a great positive message, both through words and images!

  7. Staci@LifeintheThumb says:

    I’ve been meaning to bring this one home from my middle school library more than once…will have to make sure I do!!

  8. Tasfia Amin Samia says:

    I have to make a book review of this as a school assessment, this review is a great help for students like me, thanks a lot , and this is an awesome book for sure

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