Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Absolute Value of Mike by Kathryn Erskine

The Absolute Value of Mike 
by Kathryn Erskine
Philomel Books, on shelves June, 2011
ARC provided by the publisher

Remember how much I loved As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth (Lynne Rae Perkins) last year at about this time? The Absolute Value of Mike sits right beside As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth on my brain-shelf of favorites!

The two books are kind of similar, now that I think about it. They both have a main character who sets off in a pretty straight forward direction at the beginning of the book, only to have a series of completely unlikely (and yet completely believable) events explode that journey into epic proportions.

Mike's math genius father is sending him to live with an aunt and uncle he's never met...for the summer...in rural Pennsylvania...because the uncle is working on a project that involves lots of math (building an artesian screw) and maybe being involved in all of this math will help Mike get into the math magnet school...in spite of the fact that Mike has discalculia, a math disability.

When Mike gets there, he learns that there is no artesian screw, but there are a plethora of problems for him to solve, orchestrate, manage, and...ENGINEER in a way that is uniquely his own. Mike learns to make his own rules and follow his own heart, and in the process he learns to accept that his talents are just as amazing as a genius for math.

Each chapter of The Absolute Value of Mike is titled with a math term and its definition. As you read the chapter, you find the narrative metaphor for each term. At the beginning of the book, there are Parallel Lines, a Transversal Line, and Skew Lines. As the story progresses, there are Outliers, Chaos Theory, Functions, Attributes and Variables. In the end, Mike, his dad, and the community of Do Over, PA are all convinced of the Absolute Value of Mike.

Watch for this gem of a book in June and put it at the top of your TBR pile!

(I'd recommend it most strongly for readers in grades 5-8, but you might know someone a bit younger or a bit older who might need to go on a journey of self-discovery with Mike.)


  1. I liked it too, but your review made me appreciate it all the more. Hadn't thought of it being similar to the Perkins which I believe you know I adored.

  2. Just finished this and enjoyed it. Such interesting characters. Love the way the story opens up your thinking.


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