When Valerie Munro of Sparta was a child, her father taught her how to play chess and she fell in love with it.
Munro, a school librarian in Pequannock, still likes to play and she takes on students who visit the library during their lunch period.
“Two years ago, I had a whole bunch of kids so interested in chess that they would come into the library and play against me and sometimes beat me,” she said. “There were three students who really got so excited about it and helped me plan a schoolwide tournament.”
Munro helps students learn the game by explaining how the pieces move.
Now, she has incorporated chess in her latest book, “The Pawn’s Puzzlement,” published in December. It is planned as the first book a series called “The Checkmates.”
Munro envisions six books, with each focusing on a chess piece and telling a story that is not only funny but also informative.
She has written three other children’s novels. Her first, “Down The Swale,” was published in 2017. The others are “Journey to Nagwanis” and “Up the Falls.”
“The Pawn’s Puzzlement” focuses on the pawn, a front-line piece on the chess board, and how it is used in a game. The book flips from the outside world to the chess board.
In the story, a child named Garrett finds a chess board that hasn’t been touched in years. Both the pawn and Garrett grow together, learning new moves and tactics to deal with other children at school.
Munro has been teaching for 33 years in Pequannock; for the past 19 years, she has been the school librarian.
“I thought, Wouldn’t it be fun if there was a fictional series about chess for kids?” she said. “There’s the Harry Potter series, there’s a series about fairies and there’s a series about vampires, but nothing for kids with chess.”
While Munro was inspired by her students’ love for chess, her research for the book included a visit to the Met Cloisters in New York City where she inspected old chess pieces from India.
She also learned and included the term passant, which is French for when the pawn passes an enemy pawn and captures it.
“I think it’s a great game for kids to play. It teaches them patience and teaches them how to lose gracefully; it’s a lasting pastime.”
The book has gained support from local libraries, students and especially chess players, who have helped Munro make sure that everything in the book is correct.
She hope children will want to play chess after reading the book.
Munro will discuss “The Pawn’s Puzzlement” and the planned series at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23 at the Pequannock Township Public Library, 477 Newark Pompton Turnpike, Pompton Plains.
The next book, “The Knight’s Knockout,” is expected to be published this fall.
I thought, Wouldn’t it be fun if there was a fictional series about chess for kids? There’s the Harry Potter series, there’s a series about fairies and there’s a series about vampires, but nothing for kids with chess.” - Valerie Munro, author, school librarian