The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. is a middle grade novel about math and poetry. But what it's really about is finding a way to do what you love. In a sneaky, humorous sort of way, by which you are surprised to be a tiny bit teary-eyed by the end of the book. I think that it's wonderful, and hope that it's going to do well. It releases this coming Tuesday.
I should tell you that I'm not completely objective about The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. The book's author, Greg Pincus, is a friend of mine (a blog friend, sure, but we've enjoyed face-to-face time at various Kidlitcons, and share certain views about the kidlitosphere). I remember quite clearly when Greg came up with six-line, Fibonacci-series-based poems, called them Fibs, and launched a poetry craze (there are 400+ comments on the original post). I remember when Greg shared the news that he was writing a book featuring Fibs, and that Arthur Levine would be publishing it. And now here it is!
As a person who was always pretty good at math, and who studied engineering in college, but whose true love is words, the concept of the Fib has always appealed to me. I would love to see a huge craze of elementary school kids all writing Fibs, and thus integrating math and poetry. I think that the book will help. But I'm not completely objective, so you should take my words in that context.
The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. is about a sixth grader who is a secret poet stuck smack dab in the middle of a family of math geniuses. When Gregory looks to be in danger of failing math, his parents are baffled and concerned. It's only with the help of a truly great math teacher that Gregory K. is able to fit things together. But not without a lot of chaos along the way. Realistic middle grade chaos, with the faintest flavor of Gary Paulsen's Liar, Liar series.
Gregory's travails with math are set against a backdrop of his relationship with his life-long best friend, Kelly. And no, this isn't one of those books about the boy-girl friendship getting weird in sixth grade. This is a book about a true friendship based on two people who "get" each other, though not without a few bumps along the way. And it's about pie. A lot of pie. (Kelly's mom owns a pie shop, and there is pie in pretty much every chapter.)
In truth, I found parts of the first couple of chapters, in which Gregory's quirky family is wallowing in math, a bit cringe-inducing. Like this:
"I'd be the best superhero ever," his nine-year-old sister, Kay, said as Gregory entered the dining room, "because I'd use the power of the hypotenuse! By taking the correct angle, I'd always be a step or two ahead of the bad guy." (Chapter 1)
I'm guessing this was intentional - Gregory was finding it cringe-worthy, too. But once Gregory's teacher, Mr. Davis, set him to writing about math, instead of doing math, I was hooked, and didn't stop reading until I had finished. I loved the Fibs at the start of every chapter (though the average reader won't know that they are Fibs until mid-way through the book). I adored Gregory's friendship with Kelly. And I liked Greg's mildly snarky voice. Like this:
"The next day at school, the test met all of Gregory's expectations. Unfortunately, that was the only positive about it." (Chapter 3)
"... Fibonacci's not just a sequence but a real person..."
"So is there like a Bob Algebra or a Joe Multiplication?" (Chapter 8)
And here's an example of a Fib, from the start of Chapter 6:
The problems find me.
The latter is always far worse."
Fun, but with a core of truth. And that pretty much sums up the book. Gregory is a regular kid, who struggles to pay attention to things that he can't connect with, but dives headlong into the pursuits that he loves. He feels alien in his family, but at home with his best friend. In short, while uniquely himself, he is someone any kid can relate to. Which is why his eventual growth has such emotional impact.
Teachers and librarians will want to scoop this one up. It has nice Common Core opportunities, too. There's also a theme song for the book, a trailer, and a positive review from Kirkus. I'm expecting big things from The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. Don't miss it!
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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