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TuesdayJuly 2012

Today, we are thrilled to offer what we can only hope is our first of many book recommendations. This comes from 826michigan student Susan LaMoreaux, one of the most prolific readers (and writers!) we know. Enjoy!

–Editors Amy–

If you’re like any other avid reader out there, then you’re probably wondering what to add to your summer reading list. Well, here’s a suggestion for you. No matter what your favorite genre is, you’re sure to love The Absolute Value of Mike by Kathryn Erskine.

The Absolute Value of Mike starts off with a fourteen-year-old kid named — you guessed it — Mike. While Mike’s dad is a mathematical genius, Mike himself suffers from a math disorder called dyscalculia, which makes it difficult for him to do sums or comprehend algebraic problems. But Mike’s dad still has big plans for his son. While he’s away at a math seminar in Romania, he wants Mike to spend six weeks of the summer with his uncle Poppy and aunt Moo, who are apparently involved in an “artesian screw” engineering project. If Mike does well helping out with the project, he might be able to get into Newton High, a high school centered around a math and science curriculum. That would make Mike’s dad pretty happy, but Mike himself is less than thrilled with this plan.

Despite his protests, he ends up on a flight to Donover, Pennsylvania, where he finds that the town has been nicknamed Do Over by the townspeople. Great way to start a summer vacation, right? In Do Over, Mike meets Moo, Poppy, Moo’s purse Junior, and Moo’s car Tyrone, who is apparently an excellent driver. However, no one’s working on the artesian screw — Poppy, who’s apparently supposed to be heading the project, is glued to the television, too consumed with grief about his son’s death in a car crash to move. And then Mike learns that Moo sometimes mixes up her words, and the so-called “artesian screw” project really meant the “artisan’s crew” that Poppy would have been leading if he had been able to get out of his armchair. But all is not lost when Mike learns of the real project the town is working toward — trying to help Karen, a teacher, raise the money needed to adopt a child from Romania. His name is Misha, and if Karen can’t come up with forty thousand dollars in three weeks, he might never find a home.

So, instead of spending his time in Do Over working on the non-existent artesian screw, Mike finds himself drawn into a network of fundraising projects for Misha. The biggest one is Do Over Day, where the entire town works to give something a second chance. But between the lack of Wi-Fi in town, the difficulties of locating a computer, and all of the organization that needs to take place for the event to be a success, Mike is kind of in over his head. And he still hasn’t managed to tell his dad about the non-existent artesian screw . . .

All in all, though, The Absolute Value of Mike is a wonderful book that will put you on the edge of your seat. Between Past the somewhat-homeless health-food freak, Gladys the punk rocker who works at the bank, the stress Mike feels trying to organize Do Over Day, and Mike’s dad’s situation over in Romania, there’s never a dull moment in Do Over.

– Susan LaMoreaux

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