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StorySnoops Children's Book Reviews | The Absolute Value of Mike | Kathryn Erskine
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The Absolute Value of Mike
by Kathryn Erskine
PUBL. RECOMMENDED AGE: 10 and up
LEXILE READING LEVEL: 610L {what is this?}
PUBLISHER: Philomel
YEAR PUBLISHED: 2011
NO. PAGES: 256
GENRE{S}: Realistic Fiction
MAIN CHARACTER GENDER: Male
ISBN: 0399255052
READ & REVIEWED BY: Shannon - StorySnoop


The Story
The Absolute Value of Mike—Book Review

Fourteen-year-old Mike, whose single father is a brilliant mathematician, unfortunately has no math aptitude himself. When his father travels abroad for work for an entire summer, Mike is sent to stay with his elderly eccentric great Aunt Moo and Uncle Poppy in rural Pennsylvania. Mike is less than thrilled about these plans. However, things are not as dull in Pennsylvania as he may have thought. In fact, he doesn't have a spare minute between trying to keep up with his wacky aunt and her car named Tyrone, getting his catatonic uncle to move, and working with his new friends--a colorful cast of characters--to raise $40,000 to adopt a baby from Romania. Never mind that Mike's father had wanted him to be working on an engineering project all summer - he'll have to deal with his dad later.
The Scoop
The Absolute Value of Mike—Book Review
{spoiler alert}

This is a coming of age story filled with both humor and heart. Ever since Mike's mom died, he has been responsible for taking care of his father, who is a genius math and engineering professor unable to manage day to day life as a typically functioning person would. Mike does everything from paying the bills to making sure he gets himself to school. (Given the background information Moo gives Mike about his father, and that his father shows no emotion, is very literal, and has a handler at work, one could assume that he may have Asperger's Syndrome or is an autistic savant.) Mike's math disability creates a wedge in their relationship, and when Mike is sent away he is expected to work on his math and engineering skills. This theme of parent/child disconnect and Mike's struggle to show his dad who he really is--good at many things but not like his dad at all--will be familiar for many middle school kids. Individuality, empathy, adoption, understanding, and father and son relationships are all themes in this story. Mike is a very good boy and helpful to those around him. He is a natural leader and is always driven to do the right thing, even when it seems impossible. Mike is also a funny narrator, and his description of the characters in the book and the events that happen keep the tone of the book upbeat and, at times, hilarious. Language is mild (a-s and cr-p are said once). Poppy says the word "sex" once when she mistakenly believes that Mike is asking for an explanation of the birds and the bees. This would be a great choice for both girls and boys, especially the reluctant boy reader.
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