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The Absolute Value of Mike

3.66  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,131 Ratings  ·  245 Reviews
Mike tries so hard to please his father, but the only language his dad seems to speak is calculus. And for a boy with a math learning disability, nothing could be more difficult. When his dad sends him to live with distant relatives in rural Pennsylvania for the summer to work on an engineering project, Mike figures this is his big chance to buckle down and prove himself. ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 9th 2011 by Philomel Books
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Okay for Now by Gary D. SchmidtA Monster Calls by Patrick NessWonderstruck by Brian SelznickDivergent by Veronica RothInside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Newbery 2012
86th out of 141 books — 715 voters
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Middle Grade Novels of 2011
46th out of 146 books — 154 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,300)
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Mike Frost is 14 years old, and ever since his mother died, he has been almost solely responsible for the care of his father, a brilliant math & engineering professor, who's fantastic with numbers, and terrible at managing life. Mike's own dyscalculia (a math disability) proves a sticking point between he and his father. To help solve this, Mike's father announces that while he will be teaching overseas for the summer, Mike will go to stay with relatives in rural Pennsylvania, to help build ...more
Apr 01, 2011 Brian rated it really liked it
I'm a huge fan of books with quirky odd characters as you may or may not know, and this book definitely delivers. The story is set in a small PA town. Mike moves in with his elderly (octogenerian) aunt and uncle when his socially awkward overweight father goes to Romania for the summer. They are not your typical seniors. Moo is a very active woman with awful eyesight and a lot of great one liners. Poppy doesn't move. He sits in the same chain in his duck slippers and only will eat scrapple. Both ...more
Stewie's Mom
Dec 31, 2011 Stewie's Mom rated it really liked it
Shelves: december-2011
This was an upbeat story filled with likable characters. This story is aimed at preteen readers, but I enjoyed it just the same.
Jan 25, 2015 Juliefrick rated it liked it
Shelves: kidlit, middle-grade
I feel like this book needed one more pass through the revision process. The potential was really there. I loved the kooky people of Do Over and their community spirit, and how Mike found his "absolute value" through his project with them. However, a lot of it just rang false and dead horses were beaten. For example, Mike's CONSTANT freak-out about Patch's "homelessness" bordered on obnoxious, as did his treatment of his grieving great-uncle. It seemed like Erskine couldn't be subtle about anyth ...more
May 23, 2011 Tasha rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teen
Mike takes care of his father, who is a rather absent-minded mathematical genius. But Mike is definitely not mathematical, despite his father’s hopes. When Mike’s father decides to send him to spend the summer with distant relatives in rural Pennsylvania to work on an engineering project, Mike sees it as a way to finally prove himself to his father. Mike discovers far more than an engineering project when he arrives. In fact, there is no engineering project at all. There is his wild-driving near ...more
Feb 21, 2012 Bobbie rated it really liked it
This book took me awhile to get into it; I felt like Erskine might have struggled with the start as well, but once the story got going, it took me away. The biggest challenge was understanding some of the more bizarre characters. Their conversations were just difficult to follow. As I came to understand them, though, they became more interesting, and I was able to appreciate them more fully.

I really enjoyed the story; it was definitely in the feel-good category. I loved the premise and enjoyed
Jan 10, 2011 Diana rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade
I absolutely love this book, it is the perfect middle grade boy book and really quite different from Kathryn Erskine's National Book Award winning Mockingbird in that it features a boy character and has a lighter, funnier tone.

Mike has a hard time relating to his mathematical genius father, especially since he did not acquire the math genius gene and has dyscalculia, a mathematical disability. When his father leaves the country to teach for 6 weeks, Mike is left to the care of his elderly Great
Jan 27, 2016 Marianne rated it it was amazing
If you're looking for a hard-core noir police procedural with lots of murder and gore, look someplace else. If you want a funny book about quirky people who are living wacky lives and being nice to each other, dig right in and enjoy. Well written, caring and lots of fun. And the audiobook reader did a terrific job--the voices he used for all the characters and his comedic timing were excellent. Bravo!
Feb 22, 2016 Erika rated it it was ok
Shelves: kids-and-youth, 2016
I really enjoyed Mockingbird and had hoped this book would be as good but I was quite disappointed. If I'd read this one first, I doubt I would have picked up another Erskine book. Filled with quirky characters, everyone is feeling sorry for himself until Mike yells at them.
Dec 26, 2011 Treasure rated it it was amazing
What a lovely story! Mike is an endearing young protagonist who has to grow up too soon due to his father's total lack of basic social and living skills (he is too busy thinking about math and engineering) and the loss of his mother. When he is packed off to live with his crazy great aunt and despondent uncle, he quickly finds himself immersed in the quirky small town that is dying for his energy, youth, and ability to lead.
The story that unfolds is painful, beautiful, honest, and sweet, all cou
Oct 26, 2011 Kari rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2011
I was laughing from page 1! Mike's genius father is teaching a 6-week class in Romania, and so 14-year-old Mike has to go to Pennsylvania with his great-aunt and -uncle. His relatives are in their 80s, their son recently died, and Poppy hasn't moved out of his armchair since. Moo's eyesight is failing, and she trusts her car Tyrone to drive her where she needs to go. Mike is at first alarmed by this environment he's been dropped into, but he soon rallies to help the community raise $40,000 in 3 ...more
Jun 11, 2015 Carrie rated it really liked it
Math metaphors! Who knew? Kid book -- perfect for 5th/6th grade, despite YA classification due to some language and teen angst and a few adult themes, but overall sweet and fresh and creative. Mike is an 8th grader with a mathematical disability (dyscalculia -- another thing I learned!) but his father is a genius (and possibly autistic -- there are hints in this direction)in the field of engineering and so math is a huge cause of friction between them (teen angst). Mike's mother died of cancer y ...more
Mai Intanant
Mar 30, 2016 Mai Intanant rated it really liked it

The book absalute of Mike is about a teenager name Mike. His dad had send him to his relatives Moo and who are in their 80’s. His dad expected him to be working on an engineering project with his relatives. When he got there he had met many friends and people with different ways of living and culture. He has found out that the project doesn't have to do anything with engineering instead it was about adopting a kid from Romania. Mike and everyone in the town helped each other to raised enough mon
Dec 10, 2010 Moira rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kid-lit
Another "gotta read" from Kathy Erskine. This book is lighter than MOCKINGBIRD, with quirky and sometimes very funny, characters. It shows her ability to write in a lighter mode, but with the same strong prose as her earlier works. And there are some great messages here: for kids--it's important to find your unique gifts; for parents--don't mold your children to be replicas of yourself. And for all of us, a great reminder that few people are what they appear to be on the surface!
Apr 08, 2015 Tracy rated it it was ok
I can't stop thinking about how Mike "cures" two deeply depressed people (both dealing with overwhelming grief) by basically yelling at them to get over it. That is not how people get over depression and it is sending the wrong message to students. I loved parts of this book, but some parts are just so wrong that I'm changing to 2.5 stars.
Jun 03, 2011 Clay marked it as to-read
Apr 02, 2015 Martha rated it really liked it
Very cute story, written very well. There ARE different ways to excel.
Jul 10, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing
I loved this story. I listened to the audiobook and Noah Galvin did an amazing job bringing the characters to life.
I gave it such a high rating because the book set out to do what it promised to do - tell me a little story about a teenage boy coming to terms with the type of man he wants to be and the type of life he wants to live.
The characters were well-developed and their antics were always amusing. The book dealt heavily with death and loss but it was not overpowering. The positive message t
Sandy Stiles
Nov 12, 2015 Sandy Stiles rated it really liked it
I so enjoyed this book and finished it quickly! The interweaving of the various tales was beautifully executed and very satisfying. My take-away? Everyone has a place in this world -- we just have to find what it is! I am a fan of Jordan Sonnenblick who often puts a message of caring for others in his books, and this had a little of that flavor as well as the fun internal and external dialog that keeps the story entertaining. I will be recommending this to a variety of students who would appreci ...more
Apr 26, 2016 Scott rated it really liked it
This is a really sweet book that falls into the quirky-kid-with-low-self-esteem-who-finds-his-groove-and-restores-relationship-with-a-parent-who-has-different-priorities-for-the-child category of kids' fiction. It's upper elementary-school in content appropriateness, but would appeal to middle school students I've taught.

The main character, Mike, has dyscalculia (think dyslexia, but for numbers), but is the son of a scatter-brained math professor who has high hopes for Mike to be an engineer (is
Nadia Flores
Do you feel left out? Like your parents don't get you? Well Mike might feel the same way. He get's you. His mom died when he was young. His dad is fat and very forgettable. His relatives are crazy and lazy. This is a realistic fiction book. This is very good book, and what got me to read this was one of Kathryn Erskine's other books, Mockingbird (which I really liked) so I decided to read this book.
This book is about a boy named Mike who's dad is engineering genius, but you see Mike has math l
Michelle Ault
Considering my own love of math, appreciation for humor and childhood in rural PA, this book is easily a 10! Mike, a 14-year-old boy with dyscalculia, is sent to live with his great aunt and uncle in rural Pennsylvania. in order to complete an engineering project. His dad must go out of the country and believes this will help Mike become a math genius, like himself.
After meeting his great aunt and uncle, he soon realizes that instead of receiving help, he will be the one providing help. Mike
IndyPL Kids Book Blog
Mar 06, 2012 IndyPL Kids Book Blog rated it really liked it
Shelves: kid-life
When Mike’s Dad wants to talk to him he calls. On the phone. From his study across the hall. Mike’s Dad is a genius. He’s also the classic absent minded professor. It’s a good thing he has Mike around to take care of business - like pay the bills. Mike’s Dad can’t find his glasses when they are sitting on top of his head or his keys when they are in his pocket. When Mike’s Dad gets an opportunity to teach abroad for 6 weeks Mike isn’t that bummed that he can’t go - six months at home without sup ...more
BAYA Librarian
Jun 19, 2012 BAYA Librarian rated it liked it
Mike lives with his father a math genius of world renowned. Unfortunately for Mike his weakest subject is math. When Mike learns that his dad plans on shipping him off to live with his elderly relatives in Pennsylvania to work on an engineering project he sees this as a chance to redeem himself. Too bad his great aunt is wacky, his great uncle has lost the will to communicate, the town is full of misfits, oh yeah and there is no engineering project. There is however a town project to help a belo ...more
Feb 04, 2012 Josiah rated it it was ok
Could it be that in Kathryn Erskine, we've seen the emergence of the next Barbara Park? The remarkably smart humor found all through The Absolute Value of Mike brought to mind for me some of Barbara Park's most memorably funny works, classic books of juvenile comedy/drama such as Operation: Dump the Chump and Skinnybones. If Kathryn Erskine continues to develop her already impressive skills in the art of comedic storytelling, all while retaining the powerful emotional pull of her breakthrough n ...more
Jun 09, 2012 Brenda rated it it was amazing
Dad's an engineer. His head is always in his work, noticing very little of what Mike does or who he really is. Mike claims he has dyscalculia but his father is unaware and remains certain that he will get into Newton High if he completes a special project - building an artesian screw with his Great Uncle. Dad is spending the summer in Romania and Mike is going to live with his unknown relatives, Poppy and Moo.

The great engineering project turns into a much larger and more complicated adventure.
Nov 12, 2011 Naomi rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
This is a nice story of empowerment and independence that I'll be happy to recommend to a number of young teens and tweens. Erskine does a good job of developing Mike's character throughout the book, as he learns that people are not often what they appear to be on the surface. The author doesn't shy away from showing Mike's typical impatience and anger at things he doesn't fully understand. I'd love to have seen the other characters developed a little more, but this is a book geared towards youn ...more
Sep 20, 2012 Terrie rated it it was amazing
Mike’s Dad, while lacking in social skills, is a mathematical engineering genius. Mike’s worst subject is math. When his father goes to Romania to lecture for 6 weeks, he arranges for Mike to stay with his great aunt and uncle in PA, whom he has never even met, with instructions to work on an artesian well project. When Mike arrives in PA he finds his Aunt Moo is totally off her rocker. She watches imaginary movies in the back seat of her car, Tyrone, among other things. Mike’s Uncle Poppy sits ...more
Jun 25, 2012 Samantha rated it really liked it
Mike's dad is a math genius. Mike has dyscalculia (think dyslexia, but with math). Since Mike's mother was killed in a car wreck several years ago, Mike and his dad have had to make it on their own, which means Mike takes care of his dad and everything else while his dad clumsily stumbles through life, trying to deal with the loss of his wife and figuring out how to be a family of two instead of three. Because Mike is the responsible one, paying the bills, doing the shopping, helping his dad fin ...more
Jan 17, 2012 Tracey rated it really liked it
Mike’s dad is a brilliant mathematician, but he has trouble doing the ordinary things—like making meals, paying bills, and finding his car keys. Mike is fourteen and has been taking care of these real life issues, and like most boys, he really wants to please his dad. His dad expects Mike to be just like him and wants him to attend a math magnet school.

But Mike is not like his dad, and he knows he will be a failure there. Mike has dyscalculia—like dyslexia but with numbers.

As the story begins, M
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Kathryn Erskine spent many years as a lawyer before realizing that she'd rather write things that people might actually enjoy reading.
She grew up mostly overseas and attended eight different schools, her favorite being the Hogwarts-type castle in Scotland.
The faculty, of course, did not consist of wizards, although... how did the headmistress know that it was the wee redhead who led the campaign
More about Kathryn Erskine...

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