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Review of The Champions’ Game: A True Story

The Champions’ Game: A True Story
by Saul Ramirez, 
as told to John Seidlitz
Middle School    Canter Press    152 pp.    g
5/17    978-0-9977402-4-0    $21.99
Paper ed.  978-0-9977402-3-3    $14.99

In 2010 Saul Ramirez got a job as an art teacher at Henderson Middle School in an impoverished neighborhood in El Paso, Texas. Chess was another of his passions, and several years later the team he started won the state championship and — improbably — the national championship the very next year; they are now a perennial power. Ramirez narrates the story, introducing us to each member of his team of “underdogs,” including English-language learners, special education students, and socioeconomically disadvantaged children. As a coach, Ramirez successfully related the rules of chess — “Protect the King,” “Cherish Your Queen,” “Make Your Moves with Purpose” — to his students’ lives and built a mindset in his team that guaranteed success in both arenas. Despite a less-than-polished presentation, this story is as uplifting and inspiring as any you could wish for. Ramirez has shared enough of his wisdom, philosophy, and insight into the process of building this championship chess team that it serves as a veritable blueprint not only for aspiring young chess masters but also for the adults working with them, those who have the responsibility to help all students achieve their true potential.

From the September/October 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Jonathan Hunt

Jonathan Hunt is the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education.

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