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The Absolute Value of Mike

Last updated Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Author: Kathryn Erskine
Date of Publication: 2011
ISBN: 0399255052
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Feb. 2013

Synopsis: Amazon.com Review
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. But when he gets there, nothing is what he thought it would be. The project has nothing at all to do with engineering, and he finds himself working alongside his wacky eighty-something- year-old aunt, a homeless man, and a punk rock girl as part of a town-wide project to adopt a boy from Romania. Mike may not learn anything about engineering, but what he does learn is far more valuable.

Note to readers:
•  Hear and see the first 33 pages of this book read aloud on YouTube by three of our volunteers, including a craft at the end!

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What is the meaning behind the title? Has anyone heard of absolute value in math class? Do you think the title has more than one meaning? scr

•  Trebuchet- a medieval catapult for hurling heavy stones
•  Ominous- menacing or threatening
•  Tentative- not fully worked out or agreed on, hesitant
•  Artesian- relating to water rising to the surface under internal pressure
•  Scrapple- a mush of ground pork and cornmeal that is set in a mold and then sliced and fried.
•  Lurching-staggering or rolling abruptly

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  How do Mike and his father differ? Why do you think Mike dislikes math?
•  Why is Mike so worried about his dad going to Romania?
•  Why does Mike's dad want to send him to Pennsylvania? What does he think Mike will get out of the trip?
•  Does Moo think Mike's dad is a genius?
•  Why does Mike believe that his dad wouldn't care about his project for shop class?

Craft ideas:
•  Make Valentine's Day cards for your friends and family!
•  Play Hangman using the vocabulary words.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!