All of the Above by Shelley Pearsall

Mr. Collins has taught math at an urban middle school in Cleveland, Ohio for the past twenty years.  Frustrated with his students’ lack of interest in the subject matter, he offers them a challenge:  build the biggest tetrahedron structure in the world and make it into the record books.  For those who don’t know what a tetrahedron is (and I had no idea), it is a geometric solid with four faces, each of  which is an equilateral triangle.  The structure that Mr. Collins’ math class intends to build will comprise 16, 384 individual tetrahedrons.

To achieve their goal, they agree to form a math club and meet after school each day to fold and glue the tetrahedrons.  Each student, however, has a life outside of school that presents challenges.  Sharice is on her 5th foster home and is a victim of neglect.  James Harris III lives with his older brother and his thuggish friends that threaten to destroy the tetrahedron.  Marcel works each afternoon at a bar-b-que joint owned by his father who cannot see the value of the math club.

The book is written from a first person point of view and each chapter is presented from a different character’s perspective.  Readers will find themselves emotionally invested in each character and hoping that each one of them overcomes their respective obstacles.

I loved All of the Above for its underlying message of hope and perseverance.  Shelley Pearsall seems to be saying that we all must build our communities with the people and materials that we have at hand.  I would recommend to ages 9 to 14.  Themes include math, poverty, urban schools, father-son relationships, inner city, community building

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