Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Nonfiction Book Review: Queen of Katwe by Tim Crothers

Book Description:
One day in 2005 while searching for food, nine-year-old Ugandan Phiona Mutesi followed her brother to a dusty veranda where she met Robert Katende.

Katende, a war refugee turned missionary, had an improbable dream: to empower kids in the Katwe slum through chess—a game so foreign there is no word for it in their native language. Laying a chess­board in the dirt, Robert began to teach. At first children came for a free bowl of porridge, but many grew to love the game that—like their daily lives—requires persevering against great obstacles. Of these kids, one girl stood out as an immense talent: Phiona.

By the age of eleven Phiona was her country’s junior champion, and at fifteen, the national champion. Now a Woman Candidate Master—the first female titled player in her country’s history—Phiona dreams of becoming a Grandmaster, the most elite level in chess. But to reach that goal, she must grapple with everyday life in one of the world’s most unstable coun­tries. The Queen of Katwe is a “remarkable” (NPR) and “riveting” (New York Post) book that shows how “Phiona’s story transcends the limitations of the chessboard” (Robert Hess, US Grandmaster).

My Thoughts:
The Queen of Katwe is both a heartbreaking and awe inspiring story. As I read the first chapters, my heart ached for the people in Uganda, especially Phiona who lives in the slums. But even though her life is made up of sheer day-to-day survival, her love of family and faith in God sustains her on her incredible journey. Phiona is an amazing young lady who has an amazing aptitude for the game of chess. The more I read of Phiona's story, the more I rooted for her to learn and win. She's blessed to have a young man, Robert Kantende, who cares about the children of Katwe. He's an exceptional example of courage and encouragement. Tim Crothers does a great job telling Phiona's story. He gives enough background to help the reader understand the circumstances without being maudlin. I enjoyed seeing the world through Phiona's eyes as she experienced much of it for the first time during tournament travel. My overall favorite part of the story is the thread of truth that ties it all together. Phiona trusted God no matter what her circumstances. I'd like to see this on the reading list for middle school or high school students. It's a perfect example of integrity, grit, hope, and endurance. I received this book from Buzzplant in exchange for a fair review.

To learn more check out Phiona's story.

Watch the trailer for The Queen of Katwe, coming from Disney in September.

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