The Queen of Katwe by Tim Crothers
Through this book, I learned of Phiona Mutesi‘s life and many others in the Ugandan slums. The struggles the people face, especially children, are heartbreaking. This is a story of how many lives woven together make it possible for a little girl from the Kampala slums to excel at a game that did not even have a word to describe it in her native tongue; we know it as chess.
Robert Katende is just one of these individuals, a child of the slums who found a lifeline through soccer via a mission called Sports Outreach. This mission provides life lessons, activity, and most importantly food for each child that attends. Robert’s mentor eventually encouraged him to join the mission and return to the Kampala slums to start a soccer mission.
Robert realized he could not reach all children through soccer; some were too frail and girls did not typically join in. He recognized chess could be a new avenue of outreach. Phiona followed her brother to the mission one evening and learned to play chess. She quickly shows talent and passion for the game. Chess becomes Phiona’s lifeline and her dream is to become a grandmaster. But above all, she says, “I imagine living in a home where all the suffering, all the challenges we have been through would be over.” There are many people on the sidelines hoping, praying, and supporting Phiona to achieve her dream.
There are some things about this book I would change. At one point I thought the publisher had inserted a section from another book because it seemed all about soccer and I knew I was reading a book about chess; it took a while to see the connection. The sequence this book is written in is also awkward, but hang in there because it’s worth it.
I read this book at the beginning of August while on vacation. Many of you know Brodart is located in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the home of the Little League World Series, which is held at the end of August. I am sure you are wondering how this book and the LLWS relate. Well this year was the first to include a team from Uganda. Had I not read this book at the beginning of August, I would not have been able to comprehend the struggles they overcame to be here. They were the underdogs in many ways! While they did not win a tournament game (though did win in a consolation match), I believe they won in many more ways. I am sure all of the people that played a role in their adventure felt the same way!
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