The key to playing chess is understanding checkmate. One of the best instructional books of all time, Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess uses chess diagrams to offer instructive problems that become progressively more difficult. Do these exercises and you will improve your game.
In The Chess Tactics Workbook, Al Woolum presents 160 pages of puzzles (6 per page) concentrating on mates in 1, 2 or 3 moves. Lots of great practice for the beginning student.
Because these books are not filled with illustrations, they are great choices for beginners of any age.