Chess nuts by Julia Lawrinson

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Puffin, 2010. ISBN 978 0145304708.
Jackson a sports nut is aiming to win the swimming championships and so get the prized trophy naming him Athlete of the Year, before he leaves primary school. But he is interested in chess and plays at home, so the chess club appeals to him. But these people are seen as geeks and losers by his friends and certainly the other sporty members of the school, and particularly the school bully, Freak Buckley, who easily makes Jackson's life hell. Into this mix comes Anna, a girl in the chess club with whom Jackson has an odd relationship. Together they decide to help each other so that their team can win the school chess championships, and surprisingly, another member of the school offers to help.
Not just a story for chess buffs, this is a smoothly flowing story about kids at school, finding their own talents and abilities, helping each other achieves their goals and striving to do their best. Sport encompasses chess, so Lawrinson is not only engaging students with her story but flying a banner for this neglected team sport. Her chess nut family gave her the background for the story and I was intrigued with the chess boards laid out in spots through the story allowing readers to try out games for themselves. An absorbing read for middle school.
Fran Knight