Harvey Kidder wanted to teach his 6-year-old son, David, how to play chess. The result is this invit-ing paperback book, which comes with a sturdy cardboard chessboard and plastic chess pieces.
The chessmen are of traditional design: They look like standard knights, rooks, and bishops, not people. Given the wealth of available designs (including Civil War generals, Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, and, yes, the original cast of Star Trek), it was a smart choice. These pieces won't distract young eyes from learning the fundamentals of the game.
Kidder writes clearly, devoting a brief chapter to each piece and to basic strategy. Rather than just describing how the pieces move around the board, he explains their historical significance. (The pawns, considered the least valuable, represent the laborers or foot soldiers, which is why there are so many of them.)
Simple drawings of the board show how the chessmen move; imaginatively rendered color illustrations capture the medieval imagery they evoke. Certain facts are highlighted in colored boxes and used as asides (example: ''checkmate'' is from the Persian shah mat, meaning the king is dead).
If The Kids' Book of Chess has a drawback, it may be its reliance on military images. In one drawing, a hapless king is shown cornered and held at bay by a variety of weapons. Elsewhere, a knight in full armor appears ready to kill a fallen soldier. There's no blood, but it may strike some as a smite much. B