Not An Easy Win

not an easy win

Can Lawrence figure out how to get on the board, even though the odds are stacked against him?

Introducing a powerful novel about family, forgiveness, and figuring out who you are when you don’t make the rules—just right for middle-grade fans of Nic Stone and Jason Reynolds.

Lawrence is ready for a win. . . .

Nothing’s gone right for Lawrence since he had to move from Charlotte to Larenville, North Carolina, to live with his granny. When Lawrence ends up in one too many fights at his new school, he gets expelled. The fight wasn’t his fault, but since his pop’s been gone, it feels like no one listens to what Lawrence has to say.

Instead of going to school, Lawrence starts spending his days at the rec center, helping out a neighbor who runs a chess program. Some of the kids in the program will be picked to compete in the Charlotte Classic chess tournament. Could this be Lawrence's chance to go home?

Lawrence doesn’t know anything about chess, but something about the center—and the kids there—feels right. Lawrence thought the game was over . . . but does he have more moves left than he thought?---from the publisher

256 pages 978-0593175217 Ages 10-13

Keywords:  middle school, finding yourself, chess, bullying, prejudice and racism, prison, dysfunctional family, father/son, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old, 13 year old, African American and Black stories, African American author, incarceration, poverty, social issues, self image, self compassion, self confidence, self reliance


Expelled from largely white Andrew Jackson Middle School after being blamed for the fights that see him regularly beat up by bullies, a Black 12-year-old learns the game of chess in this heartfelt novel from Giles (Take Back the Block).

When his now-incarcerated father left the family, Lawrence, his mother, and his eight-year-old sister moved from Charlotte to his religious grandmother’s country house in Larenville, N.C., where they live with his twin cousins. Despite attempts to stay under the radar, Lawrence is expelled for the rest of the year, and Granny makes it clear that “a man that don’t work don’t eat.” Listening to old-school music on his father’s left-behind iPod as a means to feel his dad’s presence, Lawrence looks for ways to spend time while completing the school year online.

His luck starts to change when neighbor Mr. Dennis introduces him to an extracurriculars program at Carver Recreation Center, where he encounters Black peers, including chess queen Twyla, who “filled up the whole room with her sureness.” Fans of Akeelah and the Bee and Brooklyn Castle will cherish this well-characterized, compassionately told story that touches on financial precarity, intergenerational community, and the school-to-prison pipeline.  --from the publisher

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