Sunday, June 30, 2019

Solving For M

Swenden, Jennifer. Solving for M
May 28th 2019 by Crown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Mika is having a hard time as she starts fifth grade in Highbridge Middle School. In order to ease the transition, classes are in pods, and Mika is not in a pod with her friends. Her teacher, Mr. Vann, is very charismatic and tries to make math very lively, even giving them math journals to complete. Mika has trouble with old friends, but does make some new ones. The big concern, however, is that her mother has a spot on the back of her leg that turns out to be a malignant melanoma, and requires much more medical attention than expected. Mika's father hasn't been in the picture for a while, and is living in Florida with his new wife, so Jeannie, a friend of her mother's, and Grandma Beau step up to help with Mika and with getting Mika's mother's medical treatments. This is all stressful for everyone, but Mika takes comfort in her classes, especially math, and in her new friends, who form a group the call The Calculators. Mika spends a little bit of time with her father, which is a welcome break that she feels somewhat guilty about. Her mother continues to struggle with the cancer and the treatment, but luckily the two have a great support network, and are prepared to deal with whatever news comes.
Strengths: This covered what it is like to deal with a parent who has cancer really well. There are just enough details about treatment to make it interesting but not bog down the stories. The heaviness of this plot line is lightened by the classroom adventures and the friend drama. Mr. Vann is a vibrant teacher along the lines of Mr. Terupt, and the STEAM tie in will make this popular with teachers. Mika's emotions and coping mechanisms are aptly portrayed, and it's nice to see her with a strong support network.
Weaknesses: While the idea of working math problems and concepts into a middle grade book is fantastic in theory, the books I have had that do this have never circulated well.
What I really think: The issue of a parent with cancer is one that my students do occasionally want to read about, but this book skews a little young with so much of it taking place in the classroom. This would be great for an elementary library (where they will love the illustrations), but for middle school, I think I'll stick to something like Pyros' Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas for my older readers.
Ms. Yingling


  1. This one looks interesting, though I think I might be reaching my max on books about kids with parents suffering cancer. I'm interested in the idea of keeping a math notebook ...

  2. I agree with Sue! Reading books about cancer makes me sad, but I like the math angle.

  3. Thank you for sharing this unique book {at least in my experience} with us for MMGM.