Check Mates

Felix’s ADHD makes it hard for him to concentrate and his grades are slipping. Everyone keeps telling the schoolboy to try harder, but no one realizes how hard it is! When his Mum suggests Felix spend time with his Granddad, Felix can’t think of anything worse. Granddad hasn’t been the same since Grandma died, and he’s always trying to teach Felix boring chess. But sometimes the best lessons come in the most unexpected of places, and Granddad soon shows Felix that there’s everything to play for.

This is the third book from children’s author Foster who once again creates very believable characters;  from nasty, smirking Rich who keeps Felix in his almost permanently anxious state at school  to marvellous Rebecca and Jake, the eleven-year-old’s  ‘equal best friends’. All the people in this book have just the right amount of flaws, from Dad who lost his job to Mum who’s always working too many shifts at the factory.  Even Grandad struggles with his reactions to Felix at times and isn’t afraid to admit he’s sometimes wrong.  The Schoppes are a family we can connect with so that when Felix, who has felt downtrodden for so long, finds himself up on the stage receiving a prize at school, we are there with him sharing his sense of disbelief.

Add to that a strong plot – just precisely who is Granddad with his mysterious German background and Cold War involvement – and a cunning twist near the book’s end and it makes this heartfelt,  pre-teen underdog drama a true page turner.