Work Title: Chess Rumble
Work Author(s): G. Neri and Jesse Joshua Watson, illustrator
Lee & Low Books
64 pages, Hardcover, $18.95
Reviewer: Heather Shaw
Chess Rumble opens with the illustration of a boy extending his hand towards the viewer. In perspective, the fist looks life-size if the reader is eight to twelve---the ages recommended by the publisher---and invites engagement. "Peace!" as is often said in this reviewer's home. It is certainly not the same fist that's found a few pages later, when protagonist Marcus is smacking his nemesis Latrell for teasing him in public. Marcus, of course, ends up in the principal's office. Little threat there, however, as he knows Mrs. Tate feels sorry for him since his sister died. No, she won't kick him out of school, but she will send him to the library. "Maybe you can use that anger to break down barriers instead of creating new ones," she says. In response, Marcus thinks: I wanna say I'm not an angry guy, that I'm not the one she gotta worry 'bout. But I can see in the way she look at me that she don't believe I will turn it around. But isn't a child who speaks like this going to have trouble in a library? And, why would a publisher encourage the use of slang? Says author G. Neri, "For reluctant readers, specifically inner city boys who may have never read a work of fiction, Chess Rumble provides an urban voice they probably haven't seen in books before. I see Chess Rumble as a gateway book, something that represents the language and rhythms of the street, something that...