Thursday, November 24, 2011


Father/son relationships are tricky, and Mike's relationship with his father is no exception.  The Professor is a genius with high hopes for his son.  Disappointed in Mike's grades, his father wants to find a way to improve Mike's math skills so Mike won't "end up on the street someday."  Mike is more realistic about his math abilities.  He knows no matter what he does, math is never going to be his strength.

Since his mother's death, Mike and his father have been on their own.  Actually, Mike has been holding things together for the two of them.  His father suffers from a condition that doesn't allow him to learn and recognize faces of even those closest to him so Mike is lucky that his father even remembers his name.  As far as the day-to-day running of their household, his father might be a genius and a college professor, but if paying the bills and grocery shopping was left to him, they wouldn't have a roof over their heads or a thing to eat.

When Mike's father announces that he is going to be lecturing at a university in Romania for the summer, Mike begins preparing himself for the trip.  However, Mike is informed that he will be going to live with a great aunt and uncle in some remote Pennsylvania town.  Mike isn't thrilled to be spending the summer with people he doesn't know, and he is also concerned about how his father is going to function in some foreign country without him.

Another part of Mike's summer living arrangement involves working with his great uncle Poppy on an engineering project with something called an Artesian screw.  According to his father, Mike will gain valuable mathematical and engineering skills.  Once in Pennsylvania, Mike finds a huge mix-up that involves everything but an engineering project.

THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE by Kathryn Erskine is filled with crazy adventures involving Mike's great aunt Moo who can't see and has trouble finding the correct words to express her sometimes off-the-wall thoughts, his uncle Poppy who refuses to leave his easy chair and eats only scrapple, and the town's desire to help a single minister in the community adopt a young Romanian boy.  Mike finds himself in charge of a community festival and a fund-raising effort to raise the $40,000 needed to bring little Misha to the United States. 

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