I’m always looking for books about math. Here’s one that came out just recently.
The Queen of Chess: How Judit Polgár Changed the Game
by Laurie Wallmark; illus by Stevie Lewis
32 pages; ages 6-9
little bee books, 2023
Themes: biography, women in STEM, math
Judit Polgár peeked through the door of the “chess room.” Her oldest sister Susan was playing, and Judit wanted to be part of the fun.
She gets her wish when she turns five, and joins her older sisters for five to six hours a day studying chess. Judit loved playing, and even more loved competing. Soon she was winning tournaments, and at the age of 15 became a grandmaster.
What I like about this book: I like how Laurie shows Judit as a ferocious and fearless chess player – and also as a young girl who does other things, too. Chess doesn’t look as exciting as soccer or skating, but for the players it’s an electrifying game of strategy. As a non-chess player, I appreciated that back matter includes a section on the mathematics of chess. Not only do young players learn to recognize patterns and develop spatial reasoning, playing chess helps critical thinking – because players need to think several moves ahead and be able to quickly change their strategy.
We’ve got a couple chess boards on the game shelf, but for some reason I never got the hang of chess. So I had to ask Laurie One Question:
Me: Did you play chess as a child?
Laurie: I did, but only for fun – I never competed. Playing the game didn't inspire my writing, but my knowledge of chess definitely helped me get into the mind of Judit Polgar.
I think the best way to learn to play is by doing chess puzzles. These are not entire chess games but rather the board is set up with only a few pieces. The goal is to figure out how to get to checkmate by using a limited number of moves. Chess puzzles offer the opportunity to practice the rules of the game and to improve pattern recognition skills.
Beyond the Books:
Read more about the life of Judit Polgar at her website here.
Learn the rules of Chess and how to move the pieces. Here’s one site. ChessKid is another place that’s set up for kids to learn how to play (requires that you sign up)
You can play other, non-chess games to increase your powers of pattern recognition. Here are a few: Uno, Clue, Memory Minesweeper, Tetris, and Connect Four. If all you’ve got is pencil and paper, try tic-tac-toe.
Laurie is a member of #STEAMTeam2023. She has written tons of biographies about women in STEM, many of which I have reviewed on this blog. You can find out more about Laurie at her website.
Today we’re joining Perfect Picture Book Friday. It’s a wonderful gathering where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by Blue Slip Media.