The aim of The Foolish King is to teach children how to play chess. Written by Mark Price and illustrated by Martin Brown, it has the unusual premise of using a story to fire up kids’ imagination in order to spark curiosity for the game. Sounds bizarre – but it works…
The story centres around the two characters of Holly and Pip, and is set in a mythical kingdom of Stur, far far away. When the mean King Parip takes control of the kingdom, killing all the insects and consequently preventing crops from growing, Holly and Pip stumble into a magical land. There they discover various creatures, including bees, butterflies and worms playing an usual game, where night and day insects are pitted against each other.
Holly and Pip need these insects back in Stur to pollinate the soil and enable plants to grow, how can they convince them to return to such a hostile environment?
By challenging the insects to a game of… chess. Thus from Chapter Eight onward the focus changes to that of chess, with the story intermingling. The rules of the game are introduced, starting with the names of the pieces.
From here Price encourages the reader to get to know each piece well, before moving on. A variety of ‘training boards’ are provided, encouraging readers to become more interactive in solving the problems on each one. Brown’s illustrations really come to the forefront here, managing to be entertaining and informative at the same time.
Younger readers will need to be guided through The Foolish King – as expected with chess, there is a lot to take in. Nevertheless Price has gone to great pains to make this nice and light by ensuring the story is integrated as much as possible. For more imaginative kids this helps ground the rules of chess in something more tangible for them, and is an interesting angle that I haven’t seen in chess books before!
With a unique angle The Foolish King introduces the world of chess to kids in fun, imaginative manner that is sure to spark up bundles of curiosity in this much loved game.
For those who want to take the game further, The Foolish King app could be an option. In addition to reading the book itself, you can also revisit the rules in an interactive manner and, of course, play the actual game.