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The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451657811
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451657814
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,880,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Well researched, well written. I especially liked how he treated her religious environment sympathetically.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 51 reviews
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
The Queen of Katwe - A Gritty Inspiration Oct. 9 2012
By Kathleen Edwards - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Phiona Mutesi is one of the best chess players on earth. At 11 she was her country's junior champion, at 15 a national champion. Soon after she traveled to Russia to participate in the Chess Olympiad, the most prestigious event in the Chess world. Only in her teens, she sat across the board from experts several years older, yet she played with an intensity and instinct that had more experience players struggling to keep the upper hand - and not always succeeding.

Her command of the game at such a young age certainly had people talking. Certainly she must have the best of coaches, the best education, and the best backing to be as good as she is. Certainly the best chess players have the best pedigree.


Phiona Mutesi is from Uganda, a country at the bottom of the pecking order of African nations. And she lives at the bottom of the pecking order of Uganda itself. She's a child of Katwe - one of the worst slums in the world.

The Queen of Katwe, by former Sports Illustrated senior writer, Tim Crothers, is a gritty inspiration. Crothers introduces us to a culture where human life is cheap. Where life, moment to moment, is not guaranteed. Where a teen girl's goal is to give herself to a man, or more than one man, in order to secure food and shelter - and hopefully support for children when she gets pregnant. But in a country rampant with AIDs, it's not uncommon for that male support to succumb to the disease and leave his offspring homeless and scraping for food.

This was the life that Phiona was born into. A world of mind-numbing destitution and hopelessness.

But while Phiona and other children like her fought to survive in the squalor that is Katwe, there were people who were determine to bring hope.
People like Robert Katende who grew up in Katwe and fought his way out. A man of strong faith and a passion to mentor and love the kids who found their way to the Sports Outreach center every day to get a bowl of porridge and learn chess.

People like Russ Carr, on staff at Liberty University, who, 25 years ago, founded the Sports Outreach Institute that uses sports as an inroad to missionary work in third world nations.

And people like Norm and Tricia Popp who established the Andrew Popp Memorial Scholarship to help Ugandan slum children get an education, after their son's tragic death.

Crothers masterfully intertwines these stories until each life intersects at the moment when a shy, filthy little girl first placed herself in front of a chessboard.

Rooks, bishops, knights, pawns, queens and kings fought for survival and dominance on the board. Each move that Phiona made would mean win or lose - a check- checkmate reflection of her life in the muddy streets of Katwe.

But her excellence at this game opened doors that would never have been opened to her. Traveling around the world, sleeping in a real bed in a hotel with toilets and running water, and most of all food, more than she could possibly imagine.

Unfortunately, those tournaments that took her out of Katwe would end, and she would return to the only life she had ever known.

Phiona is still in Katwe, going daily to play chess at a little church outside of the slums. She has dreams that she dared never to dream before - but getting out of Katwe won't be easy. But she has a chance.

The Queen of Katwe does inspire, but Crother's doesn't sugarcoat the reality of Phiona's life in the slums. Being a chess champion means very little in the mean streets.

So as Phiona's gutsy attitude and determination lifts the heart - her situation, and the situation of many Ugandan children like her, can't help but convict the spirits of those of us who are first-worlders.

The Queen of Katwe is an important book. We tend to forget how most of the world lives. Phiona's story is a moving reminder that every life holds value, and we have the opportunity to influence the endgame.

Free advanced reader copy of The Queen of Katwe received from Scribner Publishing in exchange for an honest review
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
A Story That Needs to be Shared Oct. 10 2012
By Books and Chocolate - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Reading about chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi, her family, and the team of people who were intrumental in helping her see the potential for a life beyond the slum that is the only home she has ever known has been nothing short of a humbling experience. Although parts of Phiona's story are heartbreaking and some of the challenges seem insurmountable, her resolve to pursue her passion of becoming a chess Grandmaster despite the odds is inspiring.

In a society where reality t.v. stars (and some athletes) are given non-deserved celebrity status for doing nothing more than behaving badly, it is refreshing to read about someone who can teach all of us something about faith in God in the worst of circumstances, humbleness, perseverance, and daring to dream for what seems impossible. For most people the motivation to be the best at something is fame and fortune; for Phiona, being a chess champion is a matter of survival emotionally, physically, and economically. It helps provide food for her family for another day or two, and shelter for another week or maybe even a month. It has the potential to open doors for education that she might not have otherwise.

Once I started reading Phiona's story, I couldn't stop. When I reached the end I wanted more because her story is not finished yet. I want a sequel or some kind of postscript to know what has happened to her since the publication of this book. I find myself thinking about her every day, wondering if she and her family have been able to get out of the slum of Katwe and how she is doing in the next championship.

This is the story of a real-life hero and role model that adults and teens need to read, and that needs to be shared with other children.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Awesome!!!!!!!!!!! Nov. 25 2012
By N.J. Caldwell - Published on
Format: Hardcover
My copy of The Queen Of Katwe (pronounced kaat-way)is amazing. I have met both Phionia and Robert and had them sign the book. I have played chess with Phionia and (of course) she beat me. Their stories are truly amazing. I have also met Rodney Suddith and Russ Car.
This book is a story of triumph and Phionia is an amazing young lady. SOI had taught children soccer. Robert Katende saw children sitting on the sidelines, and had a vision to teach the children chess. they speak Lugandan , but they are learning English. in their language, there is no word for chess. Phionia had an amazing talent for it and the main reason her mother let Phionia go to the chess program is that they were giving them free food. In Katwe, it is total devastation.children care for children and there could b e5 people on one mattress.
It is an amazing story of God's mercy and grace . Please read it, your heart will go out to the Africans in slums and that are desperately in need of help.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Book! Feb. 27 2013
By Literary Wonders! - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Date: 2/24/13
Title: The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster
Author: Tim Crothers
ISBN 13: 978-1451657814
Pages: 240
Publisher: Scribner
Cover: Hardcover
Rating: 4 Stars

Phiona Mutesi was a nine-year-old girl living in Katwe. Katwe is the worst slums in Uganda. Instead of getting an education, she had to get out and work. She and her siblings did odd jobs to help their mother. Between times, she was introduced to chess and picked up rather quickly. What will she do with her new skill?

Let me start off by saying Tim Crothers did a phenomenal job with this book. In the beginning, I had a hard time reading about the living conditions in Uganda. I applaud Crothers for keeping things raw. His work puts things in perspective and gives you something to think about. I walked away learning some Uganda history. This is definitely a book I would recommend to others.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
THE QUEEN OF KATWE - a compelling story without a final chapter Oct. 30 2012
By Thomas - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The final chapter can be a blockbuster about triumph over poverty, or it can be a headline about courage to live in poverty. As the characters continue to develop their story, they deserve our love and support. Perhaps we will hope for so many more wonderful opportunities to arise that we will never want to read the final chapter until it celebrates a glorious reversal in the lives of the children of the slums of Katwe.

Author, Tim Crothers invites the reader into the life of Phiona, a young African girl who equates daily, life-threatening struggle with normal existence. She lives in the squalor of the slums of Kampala, Uganda. She is clueless about clean water, adequate food, sanitation or a healthy family system. Crothers exposes the complexities of breaking the chains of suffering for disadvantaged, civil war-ravaged, struggling human beings.

Who is the Queen of Katwe? She is slender, dirty, ragged, withdrawn, tough, illiterate, brilliant Phiona. Mentored by indigenous Ugandan missionaries, Phiona overcomes enormous obstacles and becomes a national chess champion. Crothers lovingly and excitedly captures her story along with its heroes whose concern reaches beyond Phiona to other children who also face fragile and desperate destinies.

My own reading of "The Queen of Katwe" left me with a sense of obligation to support riveting story characters like Phiona; it left me with and a sense of awe for faithful people who live their love for their neighbors. I recommend this book to you because the story is suspenseful and because it inspires the reader to play a supportive role in the final chapter. I believe that the Queen of Katwe will keep her story active until she lifts many of her young, fellow sojourners to a better life. What a blockbuster of triumph that final chapter can be.

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