From the author and illustrator:
In our first book, Across the Battlefield: A Pawn’s Journey, we imagine what it might feel like to be a pawn in the game of chess. The rules of the game make it possible so that a mere pawn can one day become a queen, the strongest piece on the board. But the barriers to get there must seem overwhelming! Can you identify with a pawn who dreams of becoming a queen? Across the Battlefield aims to inspire children to pursue their goals no matter how impossible they may seem, all while teaching them key strategies to winning in chess and in life.
Chess comes alive like never before as readers experience the game through the eyes of Prunella, a nervous little pawn who believes she must become a queen for her life to matter. Join her journey as she discovers not only strategies and tactics for mastering chess, but also lessons about teamwork and how every piece, including pawns, has value.
About the Author:
Jon first learned to play chess in the 4th grade, and he has carried a passion for the game ever since. Like Prunella, he grew up believing that he had to become someone famous or extraordinary, like the President, for example, to be worthwhile. In some small way, the story of Prunella reflects Jon’s journey to finding happiness and peace within. He is raising three daughters with his wife Ann-Marie. When playing chess with his girls, they love to pretend what the pieces might be thinking and experiencing and he enjoys using those exploratory imaginings to teach lessons about life, leadership and becoming a whole person.
Caroline Zina is a children’s book illustrator with an imaginative and whimsical art style. She has illustrated bestsellers such as The Great Unknown Monster and Melody’s Magical Flying Machine. You can view more of her artwork and contact her at CarolineZina.com.
The idea of using chess as a morality or an allegory dates back to The Game and Playe of the Chesse, published by William Caxton 450 or so years ago.
A number of authors, including your reviewer, have, over the years, used the concept of a story to introduce chess to children. It’s a very attractive idea as well: most children enjoy stories and the game offers a lot of possibilities for teachers and parents to use chess related stories both to introduce children to chess for the first time and to help children who already play.
Just as in any battle, the participants have to show courage, have to work together as a team, and sometimes have to make sacrifices to help bring their team victory. Stories based on chess can be used to teach children all sorts of positive qualities, and even to improve their mental health. (Indeed, this topic is covered in my forthcoming book Chess for Schools.)
Here, we follow Prunella, the black b-pawn, who is helped by Norry the knight and the rest of her team as she travels across the board.
It’s a lovely story, beautifully written and enchantingly illustrated, that will appeal to many children – especially, but not only, girls – aged from about 6 or 7 upwards. It might spark an interest in chess, or encourage them to play more chess. By talking to their parents and teachers about Prunella and the other characters in the story, children will learn to understand and regulate their emotions, deal with fear and apprehension and help make their dreams come true.
Having said that, I’m not certain the actual chess content is suitable for most young beginners. The view of many chess teachers, including myself, is that most children will gain more long-term benefit from starting by playing simpler games before moving onto ‘big chess’. Here, we’re thrown straight into a fairly sophisticated Queen’s Gambit, with the story on the left-hand page and some general advice, mostly of a positional nature (which might be unhelpful or confusing to newcomers), on the right-hand page. It’s also not possible to follow through the complete game: we can play through the opening, but then jump quite a few moves ahead to see how the game concludes, without any clues to reconstruct the bit in the middle.
To summarise, then: great story with great illustrations: many children will, understandably, fall in love with the book, and, perhaps, be hooked on chess for life as a result. I’m not convinced about the value of the pedagogic material, which is, for me, too general and too advanced for the young beginners who would be attracted by the story, but I suppose that’s not really the point. If you’re a chess teacher or parent and you know children who would like this story, especially, perhaps, children who have issues with low self-esteem and anxiety, then don’t hesitate.
Richard James, Twickenham 18th July 2022
- ASIN : B0B6DJBTY9
- Publisher : Chess Tales, LLC (17 Oct. 2022)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 50 pages
- ISBN-13 : 979-8986059211
- Dimensions : 17.78 x 0.64 x 25.4 cm
Official web site of Chess Tales