A little while ago I wrote about Julia Lawrinson’s Losing It, which I quite disliked. I’m pleased to say, that I enjoyed Chess Nuts, a middle grades fA little while ago I wrote about Julia Lawrinson’s Losing It, which I quite disliked. I’m pleased to say, that I enjoyed Chess Nuts, a middle grades fiction by Lawrinson, about 100 times more than Losing It!
Chess Nuts is told through the perspectives of two children in their final year of primary school. Jackson is the sporty and popular kid, Anna is the wordy, chess playing outcast. When Jackson turns up at chess club, no one expects him to stick around, and Anna definitely doesn’t want him there. However, with the help of each other they discover how to become more accepting of each other and others around them.
I really enjoyed the two main characters. Jackson is fairly typical of the ‘sporty kid who enjoys music/dance/chess’ character that you see a lot of in children’s books – and occasionally in real life. The story with his father definitely adds another dimension to him, as does Anna’s struggles with the relationship she has with her brilliant, but not necessarily empathetic mother. Anna is defiantly smart – when she’s forced to run the cross country, she deliberately walks it. She throws out witty, wordy insults, but she’s really not accepting of anyone she thinks may not be as smart as she is. These two characters together are really interesting, though I’m very glad Lawrinson kept away from any kind of romantic plot.
There were some parts that bugged me. A lot of the supporting characters are very one dimensional, like in Losing It. This particularly annoyed me in the case of Josh, who is stereotypically a person with Austistic Spectrum Disorder – all the time. We’re never shown the shades of up and down that most people with ASD have. There’s also the use of the word ‘retard’ as an insult. While people are told off for using it, I still detest seeing it used in that way, without addressing why it’s so grating. There are plenty of other insults that bullies use, or a simple comment from a teacher about why it shouldn’t be used would have been better, rather than keeping it in circulation as an insult.
Although those things did bug me, this was definitely a book with the kind of empathy and heart that was missing from Losing It. I know a lot of reviewers raved about Losing It, I much prefer Chess Nuts for its exploration of what it means to be smart, belong to certain ‘groups’ at school, and how the game of chess can be enjoyed by everyone.
A quick, easy read with few twists and turns. Dash is a regular Australian kid with an interest in space. One day he discovers a program intending toA quick, easy read with few twists and turns. Dash is a regular Australian kid with an interest in space. One day he discovers a program intending to send kids into space and to his amazement he gets into the program. But his doubts grow as the launch day gets closer.
I love the concept of this story, and I can see a lot of students enjoying it. I really enjoyed the developing relationship between Dash and the trainer and between Dash and one of his fellow trainees, Yada. But something was missing in this story. I'm not sure if it rushed through too quickly (it was a very quick read) and therefore it felt that things were missed, or if it was just that I wasn't convinced by the kids who were chosen. This seems like it would have been a great book to see the quirks and personalities of gifted children - the kind that would have been chosen for a project like this. But those chosen seem a bit too normal, and therefore a bit boring - we barely get to know the, at all.
Despite this, I can see lots of uses for this book inside and outside the classroom. Pairing it up with other space books - fiction and non fiction would be great. Additionally, there's a tonne of interesting moral questions which you could discuss related to this book....more
I still don't know what to think about this book. I only finished it earlier today and I think I need time to let it sink in a bit. Basically, set oveI still don't know what to think about this book. I only finished it earlier today and I think I need time to let it sink in a bit. Basically, set over late spring and a summer, nothing happens. But then lots of things do happen, often intertwining. We see events from almost every point of view, and then with pictures. The writing is beautiful, but still I don't really know what I think about this book....more