Check Mates by Stewart Foster

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Check Mates by Stewart Foster

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Anne Thompson
Reviewed by Anne Thompson
Summary: Humour and history combine with family relationships in a touching story about the bond between a boy and his grandfather. This is a book that covers important issues in a way that young readers will find both engaging and thought provoking. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: June 2019
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's Books
ISBN: 978-1471172236

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In many ways Felix is a typical boy in Year 7, enjoying playing games on his PS4 and hanging out with his friend Jake at the weekend. However Felix is struggling at school. He is not a problem child but he does have a problem. His ADHD makes it hard for him to concentrate, he keeps getting into trouble and his grades are slipping. When his Mum suggests that he spends more time with his grandfather Felix is horrified. Ever since Grandma died his Granddad has been grumpy and more eccentric than before. All he wants to do is sit in the dark and play chess. Felix knows that this will be extremely boring. But sometimes we learn valuable lessons where we least expect to and perhaps Granddad and Felix can help each other.

Occasionally books that explore issues such as those in this book can feel slightly preachy in tone. Stewart Foster deftly avoids this and writes with such warmth and humour that the reader is rapidly drawn into this story which, I think, will encourage empathy and understanding in children of a similar age to Felix. Felix himself is immensely likeable and his friendship with Jake is so typical of boys of that age, rooted in having a laugh and sharing interests but also displaying a loyalty to each other. However it is the relationship between Felix and his Granddad that is the heart of the book and this is at times extremely moving. I loved the way in which the old man managed to tempt Felix into learning to play chess against his will and the developing plot line that followed is well done too. The historical element, bringing in the Cold War, is a clever touch particularly as it is a period of history that children may know little about and an unexpected twist adds to the storyline too.

There are many sympathetic characters in this story. Felix's slightly harassed but loving Mum and Dad are typical examples of busy parents and Rebecca, Felix's sensible friend, acts as a useful guide and mentor when he falters. The kindness of some of the teachers, in particular Mr Keytes who supports Jake despite his problems and frustrations, is encouraging for young readers to see.

I enjoyed this very much and it should strike a chord with many children and teens. I also think it would be a useful book for school libraries or classrooms prompting discussion and thought.

Thank you to the publishers Simon and Schuster for providing this review copy. The book cover is designed by Leo Nickolls.

Another children's book featuring a lead character with ADHD is a positive way is Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.

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Buy Check Mates by Stewart Foster at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Check Mates by Stewart Foster at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Check Mates by Stewart Foster at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Check Mates by Stewart Foster at


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