by G. Neri
From BookList, January 1, 2008, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
"Lotsa things make me mad," says young African American Marcus, who gets into fights at school and at home. Violence is all around: "In my æhood, / battles is fought every day." And when he is hassled by bullies or by his little brothers, Marcus responds with his fists. Then his teacher sends him to the library, where he meets CM, a local chess master who teaches students to fight their battles on the board instead of the streets. In this strong debut, Marcus' authentic voice narrates in potent, free-verse poetry. With minimal, direct words, Neri makes clear, without overstating, how Marcus' sense of being misunderstood amplifies his frustrations and how, through chess, he learns to take responsibility for his feelings and actions. Watson effectively echoes each scene's mood in small gray-tone paintings that employ dramatic shading. A deeply shadowed portrait of Marcus' absent dad is particularly moving. Readers of all backgrounds will find themselves here, but this will have particular appeal among reluctant readers and young, inner-city teens. Engberg, Gillian.