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The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  444 Ratings  ·  97 Reviews
Based on a popular ESPN magazine article selected by Dave Eggers for The Best American Nonrequired Reading and a finalist for a National Magazine Award, the inspiring true story of Phiona Mutesi, a teenage chess prodigy from the slums of Kampala, Uganda.

PHIONA MUTESI sleeps in a decrepit shack with her mother and three siblings and struggles to find a single meal each day.
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published October 9th 2012 by Scribner
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Buck by M.K. AsanteTaking Flight by Michaela DePrinceLife in Motion by Misty CopelandThe Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William KamkwambaThe Queen of Katwe by Tim Crothers
Young, Gifted, and Black
5th out of 13 books — 17 voters
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis CarrollThe Eight by Katherine NevilleChess Story by Stefan ZweigThe Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoThe Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Chess-themed Fiction
28th out of 54 books — 71 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,465)
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Dana Lee
Oct 10, 2012 Dana Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, first-reads
I enjoyed the story told here. The title pretty much says what it’s about, a girl from the slums of Uganada learning chess, and learning how it may be the thing that helps her rise out of her poverish start.

As others have commented there is a lot of other filler story around Phiona's story. For me I think there is an important piece of the story there in that Crother's describes the multigenerational poverty that has stricken these people. Sometimes he sides steps the main story to add these lit
Dec 05, 2012 Mokamonkey rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult-books
After a 5 page prologue about Phiona, we jump through a series of stories about other people. I found it to be very disjointed and confusing. Even now, after reading 100+ pages, when I go back, I have no idea who some of these people really are. What really gets me is that every person's story starts with their grandparent or parent's story, meaning that we have even more people to sort out. People that are not essential to the story.

Right now I'm at the point where he's introducing the missiona
Anthea Carson
Jan 07, 2013 Anthea Carson rated it liked it
Shelves: unable-to-finish
I got about 30% into the book and returned it because I had paid $11 for it and decided I wanted my money back.

I might not have written a review at all, but because I'm a chess coach and chess author I felt that I had a duty to report my experience with the book.

I did not post my review on amazon. I wanted to, but since I have the number one best seller on amazon kindle chess currently, I only wanted to write a review on there if it was positive. I didn't want it to look like I was trying to sab
C.C. Thomas
Jan 01, 2013 C.C. Thomas rated it really liked it
This is such a perfect title for this book: queen, both a chess piece and the girl who defies all odds with grace and beauty. Sometimes one reads not to learn or know something, but simply to meet a person so extraordinary one thinks of her time and again. That is how I feel about this girl. I think of her time and again.

This is a book that will change your perspective on many things, perhaps; but most importantly, it will show you the importance of never giving up, even when the something desir
Nov 05, 2012 Fred rated it really liked it
This was a fun read for me. Sports Outreach Institute is a ministry we've supported for 20 years. Among the many great ways they're serving some of the poorest of the poor around the world are projects of loving kids in the slums of Kampala, Uganda and Nairobi, Kenya. While Soccer has always been a useful tool in bringing kids together, some kids aren't interested, so a leader had an idea. He pulled out a couple chess boards, started teaching kids how to play, and gained entre into the lives a w ...more
May 24, 2014 Mishehu rated it really liked it
Terrific human interest story. Not a bad book, but not an exceptional one. Some very fine descriptive passages scattered throughout. But a fair amount of filler as well. Book began its life as an article. I imagine it fit quite comfortably within the pages of a magazine. Required a fair amount of stretching to get it to book length. Closer to 3 stars as reads go, but as I say, it's an inspiring story (if also rather bleak and depressing in many respects). On that score, it merits an additional s ...more
Oct 07, 2012 Leone rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
This is an amazing story of a young girl from a slum in Uganda. Carothers provides enough background on Uganda to appreciate exactly where it is that Phiona comes from. There is a bit of a disconnect at the beginning when Crothers is describing the backgrounds of some of the key players in Phiona's story but it didn't stop me from wanting to see where the story was going. I finished the book and immediately went online to find out what may have happened next since this is really just the beginni ...more
Kitty Honeycutt
Sep 30, 2012 Kitty Honeycutt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Book Title: "The Queen of Katwe”
Author: Tim Crothers
Published By: Scribner
Age Recommended: 17+
Reviewed By: Kitty Bullard
Raven Rating: 5

Review: This non-fiction novel is a true gem. The telling of this amazingly powerful story will bring tears to yor eyes. There is an abundance of inspiration in this novel that makes everyone want to stand up and cheer. Phiona Mutesi’s story to rise above is one you won’t soon forget!
Mukta Mohapatra
Jan 07, 2013 Mukta Mohapatra rated it liked it
While the story Phiona is very interesting, I did not care for the way it was presented. I suppose I am simply a very linear thinker and jumping from person to person confused me a bit.

Life in Uganda is tragic and hard. There were a lot of things that were very painful to read and it makes you want to help them.

I hope that Phiona's life improves and she is able to find her way in this world.
Mar 29, 2014 Camilla rated it really liked it
Phiona Mutesi sleeps in a shack with her three siblings and mother, struggles to find food to eat, has been out of school most of her life since she is unable to afford it, and is also one of the best chess players around the world. When she was nine while searching for food one day, she followed her brother Brian into a veranda and there she met Robert Katende, changing her life. He was working for a chess program run by Sports Outreach Institute and who also grew up in the Kampala slums. His g ...more
Sherrill Watson
Dec 17, 2014 Sherrill Watson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Phiona Mutesi became a chess champion over several years, as a result of a Christian outreach in Uganda. Children had little choice in the matter, since the Christians provided clean food for whomever showed up at their program. However, she was / is definitely gifted, and the story is an inspiration.

Nevertheless, Phiona studied long hours, the Christian outreach provided help with travel funds for the group, and she has done well since then, providing for her mother.

I'm not sure what Phiona has
Jan 08, 2014 Sue rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, africa, uganda
Katwe is a slum neighborhood in Kampala, Uganda. Phiona Mutesi is a young woman from that neighborhood who followed her older brother one afternoon as he snuck off to a soccer program. She got there in time to see him gathering with other children on a veranda learning about chess. At first, she was shunned for being a girl but the man leading the program, Robert Katende, encouraged her to stay. She and her brother continued to attend every day, partly for the free meal of porridge (often their ...more
Jul 25, 2015 Jeannette rated it liked it
The subtitle says it almost all, One Girls's triumphant path to becoming a chess champion. Not just any girl though, a young one from the slums in Uganda. This is a true and ongoing story of an exceptional person. The book reveals how she learned chess, plays chess, her teachers, her chess buddies, her poverty, her family, the background of unrest in Uganda....I could go on. The book would have got more stars for me if there had been a bit more colorful writing, more humor, more background, and ...more
Pam Saunders
An inspirational story about Phiona Muesi, who from the slums of Uganda becomes a chess champion. Unfortunately, the story is told in the most disjointed way, with far too many characters and unnecessary background stories. It makes the story difficult to follow and also hard for the reader to maintain interest. There is also a heavily Christian focus which is part of the story but could have been done much more subtly. I was looking forward to recommending this to my students who love chess but ...more
Dec 28, 2012 Lizzy rated it it was ok
Shelves: sports, nonfiction
good topic, bad writing
Jul 10, 2014 MsBrie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: political, truth, memoir
Rating: 9 out of 10 stars (I rounded up here)

The Queen of Katwe follows Phiona, the 'everyman' of the Katwe slums, just struggling to survive to the following day. Phiona discovers Robert Katende's Sports Outreach Branch NGO and becomes enraptured in the game of chess. Soon after being taught the game (ah hem, 'sport') by a much younger participant, Phiona is surpassing her classmates, and participating in national and even international tournaments.

Crothers provides a harrowing look at the eve
May 03, 2013 Laura rated it it was amazing

Author: Tim Crothers
Publisher: Scribner
October 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4516-5781-4
Genre: Non-fiction \ biography
224 pages. $26.00. 5 stars

If one is blissfully unaware of the many opportunities, advantages, luxuries and conveniences that one has been blessed with simply by living in these United States of America . . . and one wishes to remain in that state of blissful ignorance . . . please do not read this book. Tim Crothers pulls no punches, and he makes no apologies, as he re
Jul 31, 2013 Susan rated it really liked it
The Queen of Katwe is an inspiring and extraordinary story of one girl's determination and triumph in the chess world. Born into dire poverty and overcoming two near-death experiences, Phiona Mutesi lives with her mother and 3 siblings in Katwe, a a dereipt slum in Kampala, Uganda. She has also slept on the street and survived for days without food, let alone a basic school education.

Through a rudimentary chess clinic in Katwe initiated by a war refugee, Robert Katende, a 9 year old Phiona is i
Jan 17, 2013 Lucy rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. In a factual yet captivating style, Tim Crothers tells the inspiring (true) story of Phiona Mutesi. Raised in the slums of Uganda, she discovers she has a wonderful inherent talent for chess. She's very gifted at chess -- she's able to see many moves ahead, and quickly becomes a rising chess champion on her way to achieving the title of "Grandmaster", the highest honor one can achieve in chess.

It was very inspiring to see how a young girl with all the odds stacked aga
May 22, 2013 Philip rated it it was amazing
A devastating but ultimately uplifting story of poverty in human potential in Africa. Both Phiona Mutesi and Robert Katende are truly inspirational figures who will make you recount the many blessings in your own life. As a piece of literature, I agree with other reviewers comments that the book starts slow and is a bit all-over-the-place in the various characters it introduces and then forgets about -- but once the story focused on Phiona and Robert, I quickly forgave Crothers for what came bef ...more
Aug 09, 2013 AJ rated it really liked it
This book was quite good. It was the story of a girl in the Katwe slum of Uganda learning to play chess and being amazing at it. Unfortunately, though I thought the book would have a happy ending, it doesn't really. In fact, it sort of takes a depressing arc at the end because this girl plays chess in a poor country that can never afford to train her properly, or send her to any competitions to help her reach her potential. Though I imagine since the book came out (and the previous ESPN article) ...more
Cheshire Public Library
In The Queen of Katwe, Phiona Mutesi is the poorest of the poor – poorer than the Indian children of Behind the Beautiful Forevers, poor as only the poor of war-torn Uganda can be, yet through her own uneducated analytical mind, she rises above everything as a sort of chess savant, traveling to Siberia to compete on a world level – at the age of 15, a girl who has never even seen a flush toilet, who does not even know when her birthday is.

Much of the book is taken up not with Phiona – how I wish
Susan Olesen
Oct 25, 2013 Susan Olesen rated it liked it
Phiona is the poorest of the poor - poorer than the children of the slums of India, poor as only the poor of war-torn Uganda can be, yet through her own analytical mind, she rises above everything as a sort of chess savant, traveling to Siberia to compete on a world level - at the age of 15.

Much of the book is taken up not with Phiona - how I wish more of the book focused on her, her thoughts, etc. - but with everyone around her, and just how the circumstances formed for her to shoot her star so
Oct 29, 2013 Timber rated it really liked it
This book was schizophrenically scattered, didn't follow a clear timeline, random people were talked about with little or no apparent reason, the parts about the actual game of chess were as dull as watching paint dry (or should I say, as dull as watching an actual game of chess), and the entire book seemed like it needed editing...

And I loved it. I truly loved this book. I will keep this book on my bookshelf to revisit again in the future.

There were parts that were raw and emotional, like when
Mar 06, 2014 Terrill rated it really liked it
This is an amazing book--the writing may be a 3, but the story it tells is definitely a 5. As a teacher, one of the things I found most interesting was the teaching techniques used by the chess coach. The coach himself was a child who grew up in the slums and had no formal chess training, but the teaching techniques he used seem very socratic, and very effective.
Alisha Hall
Jan 06, 2014 Alisha Hall rated it liked it
I liked this book because I learned so much about Uganda not that I was ignorant about the country, there were just so many things I didn't know. I am so happy for Phiona, happy that she will not suffer the same fate as her mother, her mother's mother, sister, etc.
The book didn't really tell a lot about how Phiona felt which was OK but it would have been nice to read or hear her words/thoughts.

Last Friday, I bought my daughter a Chess set and started looking for Chess clubs for 5 year
Jun 10, 2015 Owen rated it really liked it
An interesting story about a girl, her culture, and the struggle to rise above poverty. I really applaud those who help others work to succeed, and those who themselves work to break out of poverty. Phiona works hard to improve her chess skills, and to help others in life. It is easy to root and cheer for these people, their work and their goals.
Dec 31, 2014 Crispy rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
Much of this book is not about Phiona Mutesi and very little of it is about chess. The best person to tell this story would be Phiona herself, or someone close to her. Crothers presents an outsider's perspective of life in Katwe and tells other people's stories without ever tying them together.
Feb 10, 2013 Michelle rated it really liked it
This was a pretty interesting story although I had a hard time at first figuring out who the story was going to be about. Once I figured that out, I really enjoyed this story of a young girl living in a slum in Uganda who ends up learning chess and actually going to a chess Olympiad. One thing I liked about this was the realism--at the end of the book, this girl had not had all her problems wrapped up--she was still living in a slum, struggling through school, hadn't even been to an internationa ...more
Mar 05, 2015 Joy rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Very inspiring true story that is made even more interesting because it's in real time. The stories of the people surrounding Phiona are jaw-dropping. It's a reminder of how fortunate we are relative to others in the world and yet this girl still exceeds the abilities of most people with everything handed to them.
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