Friday, March 13, 2009

Chess Rumble by G. Neri

The jacket design did not appeal to me, but I opened Chess Rumble and started reading because a) I love verse novel format and b) the book is thin and obviously a quick read and afterwards I would be able to add it to the pile of library stuff to return today.

Eleven-year-old Marcus has a lot to be angry about. His sister died a year ago, then his father deserted his family; his younger twin brothers piss him off every chance they get and his former best buddy is now his worst enemy. In the end, an adult mentor helps Marcus deal with his emotions by engaging his brain in the game of chess.

Neri has an ear for voice and his free verse perfectly captures the idiom and cadence of a young urban narrator. The illustrations by Jesse Joshua Watson nicely complement the text. The artwork is in black and grey with slight touches of tan. After I'd finished the book, I studied the cover again to think about why I didn't like it. I think it is the title itself, since a chess rumble sounds pretty hokey, as well as the weird turquoise/blue colour combination of the title against the orange/black/grey illustration of Marcus with silhouetted boys in the city scene behind him.

This book will appeal to readers in Grades 4 to 6. It is a mystery why the Edmonton Public Library has chosen to classify it as a teen novel.

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