Solving for M.

Solving for M. 256p. Crown. May 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781101932902.
Gr 4–7—Math has applications and relevance to real life, as this book shows through the experiences of the artistic-minded and sensitive fifth-grader Mika, who fills the math journal she's been assigned by her kooky math teacher with illustrations relating to her feelings around her divorced mother's ongoing skin cancer treatment. These illustrations alternate with chapters written in Mika's vulnerable and sincere first-person voice. Most scenes occur either in math class or at home, each centered around basic pre-algebraic concepts: order of operations, estimation, variables, sets, etc. Mika's growth is slow and steady as she makes new friends, acclimates to a new normal, and learns to tell her mother she still needs her. Mika, her family, and all characters but one are white, living in upper–middle class upstate New York.
VERDICT What some may see as a transparent attempt to foist math review on unsuspecting middle grade readers, others will enjoy as a sad yet sweet character-driven novel not unlike those of Lisa Graff or Julie Sternberg, with a focus on having a parent with cancer.

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