IT”S ANOTHER EDITION OF MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY AND MY FEATURED REVIEW OF SOLVING FOR M by Jennifer Swender.
Math, Mika, Mom, Melanoma.
Those four ‘M’ words wrap themselves around an intriguing and heartfelt plot.
When Mika starts fifth grade at the middle school, her neat life gets messy. Separated from old friends and starting new classes, Mika is far from her comfort zone. And math class is the most confusing of all, especially when her teacher Mr. Vann assigns math journals. Art in math? Who’s ever heard of such a thing?
But when challenges arise at home, Mika realizes there are no easy answers. Maybe, with some help from friends, family, and one unique teacher, a math journal can help her work out problems, and not just the math ones. (from Penguin Random House)
PUBLISHED: 2019 PAGE COUNT: 256
MY THOUGHTS: The idea of having fifth grade a part of middle school hasn’t caught on in my part of the country, but that’s how it’s done in Mika’s school district: K-4; 5-8; 9-12.
Most of the story takes place at home or in her math classroom, although there’s a quick side trip to Orlando to visit her dad. He’s remarried but still tries to connect with Mika. The world gets even more confusing when Mika’s mother finds a spot on the back of her leg and has it removed. It’s cancerous. With treatments and a lack of information, Mika isn’t sure what is going on.
Math comes to the rescue. Mika has never liked Math, but Mr. Vann has the class conceptualizing the subject in some unconventional ways. The personal journal he has them create help Mika through this difficult time in her life more than anything else.
The first person narration through Mika’s eyes is the spot on way to tell the story. There aren’t many middle grade books with cancer as a focus so this is a welcome addition to the shelves.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT:
SOLVING FOR M by Jennifer Swender
- Mika’s 25 journal entries with illustrations balance the text nicely. They’re often funny, insightful, and heartfelt.
- I had a math teacher in High School who taught the class like Mr. Vann. I learn by actively doing and interacting, rather than listening to a long lecture. It’s no surprise the teachers you remember are the ones who stepped out of the box and made you do the same.
- Grandma is the grandmother Mika is lucky to have. She’s there to support her daughter and granddaughter, doing so with no complaints. A great character.
- Mika’s new friends are also a treat: Dee Dee, a science geek (I have to find where I can get one of her hilarious science related t-shirts). And Chelsea who loves to cook.
- Readers might see Math and cancer treatment in a whole different light.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Jennifer Swender (from the website she and her author husband share)
Before turning to writing full-time, Jennifer taught elementary school and preschool in Houston and New York City. Her debut middle grade novel Solving For M is available now! She is currently hard at work on her second novel which still needs a better title than… Book #2. Jennifer also develops curriculum materials for students and teachers. Check out her current project Girls4Tech.
Comments can be made below. I’ll be responding to each one this week!
Last week’s winner of SWEET HOME ALASKA is June McCrary Jacobs, an MMGM regular with her fun reviews at Reading, Writing, and Stitch-Metic. Congratulations, June!