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The Checker Players Review by Melissa CummingsBy Alan Venable
One Monkey Books
156 Diamond Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
It is never too early (or too late) to learn another lesson about friendship. Friendship is complicated yet simple, frustrating yet rewarding. Children learn these things from experience beginning at a young age, and reading about them can be not only encouraging but eye-opening. That is precisely what The Checker Players is all about. The dedication, nurture, forgiveness, and teamwork that are essential to a friendship are taught in this book through a delightful story with stunning illustrations. The conversations between the characters are priceless, comical even for adults.
Byron Barton's artwork is really striking in this book, playing again with the idea of opposites mixing well, such as complicated ideas with simple color schemes. The limited color palette is juxtaposed nicely against the great detail seen on every page, right down to the patches on the characters' clothing.
One of the first things we gleaned from this book is that friendship can be found in the least expected of companions. Complete opposites can be staunch comrades. You don't need a lot in common: even just one thing (like playing checkers) is adequate. Resourcefulness is another key element in this tale. It is a character trait that every child should want to emulate. The tinker and the carpenter really make it desirable. From crossing the river to building boats to rescuing the carpenter, they learn that teamwork and friendship really blossom when the characteristic of resourcefulness is practiced.
This book is a great conversation piece. The story is simple enough to be understood by young readers but complicated enough in principle to spur great discussion. Available for under $12, this is a well-priced book. It is a good read for all ages, although perhaps geared toward older elementary students. This is a great book to have on the home bookshelf as well as in the classroom. I would prefer a hardback copy, as I foresee it gaining much love in use. When it comes to the fun and games of friendship, this is the rule book, and I suggest that you keep it on hand.