The Absolute Value of Mike
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The Absolute Value of Mike

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  895 ratings  ·  206 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
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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
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
May 23, 2011 Tasha rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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...more
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...more
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...more
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
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!
Jun 03, 2011 Clay marked it as to-read
Stewie's Mom
This was an upbeat story filled with likable characters. This story is aimed at preteen readers, but I enjoyed it just the same.
Very cute story, written very well. There ARE different ways to excel.
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...more
IndyPL Kids Book Blog
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
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
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
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....more
Nov 12, 2011 Naomi rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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...more
Mike's father wants his only son to be an engineer and Mike wants to be anything but an engineer. When his father takes a summer teaching position in Europe, Mike is sent to spend the summer with Moo and Poppy in rural Pennsylvania. Once Mike arrives, he finds that his aunt and uncle are facing financial problems and are grieving from the loss of their son. Mike takes on a pivotal role in raising funds for a woman in town to adopt a Romanian boy. By the end of the novel, Mike learns a lot about...more
I loved this book. Like in Mockingbird, Erskine knows how to deal with life, death, challenges, and triumphs in a smart, thought-provoking way. Mike's father is a brilliant engineer and mathmetician, but doesn't know how to relate to his 14-year-old son. Mike's mother died, and his father takes an overseas job opportunity, so he sends Mike off to a small town (Donover, except it's missing its n, making it Do over, PA) to stay with his great aunt and uncle, who Mike's father thinks is building an...more
Karen Ball
Mike's father James is an engineering professor and mathematical genius, who will be spending the summer teaching in Romania. But he can't bring Mike, so he sends him off to rural Pennsylvania to stay with great-aunt Moo and great-uncle Poppy for six weeks. Poppy is supposed to be working on building an artesian screw and water turbine, and James decides that experience will help Mike learn more about math -- even though Mike has dyscalculia and feels hopeless about ever learning enough math to...more
Rene Kirkpatrick
Just a great book! funny, sad, all those really good thing. A boy who has discalculia is told by his dad that he needs to spend his summer at his aunt and uncle's working on an Artesian Screw, something that will give him experience as an engineer, something his father wants him to be, while his dad lectures in Romania. Not a good or comfortable thing to be if you aren't good with numbers.

Mike is concerned by the little town and family he ends up in: His aunt and uncle are poor, his uncle is st...more
Caterina Picone
"What's your story?"

What would you say if someone posed this question?

When fourteen year old Mike is asked this question, for once, he is speechless. Kathryn Erskine, weaves comedy between the lines of incredibly serious issues. For a children's novel, Erskine is able to discuss many adult issues. This novel is not just for children but for adults as well!

1: "What's your story?", most likely ninety-eight percent of you will not know what to say. When the main character Mike is asked this quest...more
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Kathryn Erskine, National Book Award winner (Mockingbird), has mined the gold of her writing skill to create another masterpiece. The Absolute Value of Mike is the story of a fourteen-year-old boy sent to live with quirky, elderly relatives for a summer. As his great-aunt and uncle deal with the loss of their son, extreme poverty, and the diminishment of aging, Mike gets caught up in the town folks’ efforts to help one of their own adopt a Romanian child. Mike has al...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This one was really entertaining, and I laughed out loud several times. Mike is the son of a mathematician who is the typical absent-minded professor. Mike's mom died years before, and Mike, who is 14, takes care of the practical parts of his dad's life (paying bills, etc.) His dad goes to eastern Europe to teach 1 summer, and Mike heads to Donover, PA to stay with his great-aunt & great-uncle, Moo and Poppy. Donover is a crazy little town where everyone knows everyone, and Mike becomes a bi...more
Trust me, even though the cover of this book looks cute and funny, i ended up crying after reading it. The words used in this book seem so simple, but the story is very deep. The characters are unique and i laugh most of the time reading the way they behave.

The story of Mike, the main character, finding his own true passion and the courage to talk to his father about it is quite inspiring because most of us, i think, sometimes trapped in a negative or not-so-good label given by other people, or...more
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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
More about Kathryn Erskine...
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