Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Curious about Curiosity?

Lately I have been picking up books about chess and the whole steampunk movement and the book I am profiling today encompasses both.  This is not because I have a particular fascination with these areas, there just seems to be some interesting things for kids on these subjects.  Strangely enough cannibalism is also a hot topic right now, but I will (thankfully) save that for a post next week.  Trends are a funny thing.

The cover of this book did not draw me in at all, and it would have sat on my pile for months had I not recently read Grandmaster, an exciting book about a chess competition.  I was anxious for more on the game (no really) so I thought I would give this book a try.  I read it in one sitting.

Don't forget to Follow One Great Book on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google + for all the steampunk/chess your kids can handle.  Weren't your kids just asking to read a book about an automaton that plays the game of kings ... well weren't they?

Title:       Curiosity

Author:  Gary Blackwood

Target:   Grades 4-7

Series:    No

What this book is about: 
Rufus, a young boy, has a hunched back, no money, a father in debtors prison and an uncanny ability to play chess.  When his gift for chess is discovered he is “hired” to operate a mechanical chess player called The Turk.  In early 19th century America, this automaton is a marvel and no one realizes that Rufus is hidden beneath the contraption, playing the game for this mechanized phenomenon.   Past operators of The Turk have mysteriously disappeared.  Can Rufus escape the same fate? This is the 1800’s, so don’t get your hopes up!

Why I love this book: 
Ok, the 1800’s in Philadelphia, a machine that plays chess, and a boy with a hunchback, I can’t say I have ever had a child request any one of these things in a book, let alone all three, so my hopes for this particular story were not high.   Boy was I pleasantly surprised.  It reminded me of a non illustrated version of The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Blackwood is a master storyteller and to say that he makes a time and place come to life is an understatement.  I could picture all the characters and their circumstances so clearly in my mind with very few actual physical descriptions being provided.  He weaves their time, place and struggles seamlessly into the story.  Historical novels are not always easy for kids, but this one is good.

I also loved the chess sequences.  You do not have to know the game to appreciate the story, and this book coupled with the wonderful book Grandmaster have really inspired me to get a chess board out for my kids.

Who this book is for: 
Elements of How to Catch a Bogle and The Invention of Hugo Cabret exist throughout the story, so if your child liked those, this one would be a good fit.  The action is limited but the characters themselves are suspenseful.

Final thoughts: 
A surprisingly wonderful read!

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Curiosity  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

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