Friday, September 15, 2023


 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.


  1. I've been thinking of trying to learn chess, so this might be a book I'd like. Thanks for the links too.

  2. I really like the suggestion of trying out some chess puzzles in order to get to know some of the moves and strategy.

  3. I played a lot of chess in my late teens and early twenties, but I haven't played for years. It's a great game. I have to admit, I never look for books about math, so the reality is I probably won't get to this one. But I appreciate knowing about it.

  4. This sounds good! I'm not the best at chess. I never can think far enough in advance. But it's a game I think everyone should learn :)

  5. Chess is one of those games where you either love it or avoid it. This book might sway a few young readers to give the game a try. Thanks for featuring your review on MMGM.

  6. I loved chess when I was a child and this sounds a really story, thanks for the recommendation! (I might have to get out my old chess board!)

  7. Another fantastic book by Laurie Hallmark! Kudos to her. Thanks for sharing this. Carol Baldwin