Thursday, January 29, 2015

The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. by Greg Pincus

I ate way too much chocolate reading this book and I blame eleven-year-old Gregory Korenstein-Jasperton and his friend, Kelly, who eat pie every day after school at Kelly's mom's bakery called, The Slice. I think the author was having a bit 'o wish fulfillment here. It was pure torture reading his passages of Gregory and Kelly dissolving on their tongues boysenberry, apple, and chocolate-filled pies with sighs of contentment "perfectly tuned" to the sound of forks clinking on plates. They moaned in bliss, while I just moaned. Toss in Gregory's fear and hatred of math and I almost started anxiously chewing my nails like the old days when I was in high school math class. His family is a bunch of mathematical geniuses that would make the average person dizzy with their round-the-table dinner talk on complex math theories. His dad and mom want Gregory to go to Magic is Math Camp, but Gregory wants to go to Author Camp with Kelly. He loves to write, but is afraid to tell his parents. When Kelly tells him she is moving, life gets more complicated and he keeps telling fibs to make the people around him happy. Eventually he will have to face the truth with his friend and parents.

Gregory is failing math and his teacher gives him a math journal asking him to write about math. To Gregory's surprise, he pulls together poetry and Fibonacci patterns creating what he calls, Fib poetry. The contrast of math and poetry make for a surprising twist as Gregory reflects on how math is important in every day life. He uses his love of language to express Fibonacci numbers in metaphors and truths. While this adds depth to his character it doesn't drive the plot's action. That happens through his relationship with Kelly. The two have been best friends from birth and she is practical and level-headed helping to keep Gregory on task and giving him cues (usually a kick in the shin) at school when he's about to make an idiot of himself. Gregory is devastated when he finds out she's moving and responds by not being completely honest with her about attending camp.

Gregory's lie isn't intentional but more rooted in him not wanting to tell her about his failures. It's never fun to fail at things in life and hard enough discussing it aloud, but if you come from a family of math whizzes there is some shame and denial going on with Gregory in being that bad at math. He tells Kelly his parents will let him go to camp when he hasn't asked them. He tells his parents that he loves math. He enters a huge city-wide math contest because he knows his parents will be so happy even though he hates math. This is a contest that his dad has won once and brother has won multiple times. Gregory is so busy trying to please everyone around him that he makes himself unhappy and procrastinates on getting things done due to big-time lack of motivation.

His math teacher sees right through him and knows that he has no love for math. He also taps into the subject Gregory loves which is writing. When writing his journal, Gregory has no problem being honest. He tells the teacher why he thinks math is useless. The teacher asks questions back causing Gregory to look more closely at math in real life and slowly sparking an interest and appreciation for it. As deadlines approach, Gregory worries about letting people down, but he doesn't give up as he makes connections between math and writing. At the end, he shows that he has changed when he doesn't care about the outcome of the contest. He has publicly shared the truth about being a non-math lover and while he wants his parents support and approval, he knows that whether he has it or not he will always love writing. His courage to go after what he loves takes a bit of time all the while grieving about his best friend moving away.

Two recent books I've read, The Dumbest Idea Ever, by Jimmy Gowley and Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff, are similar to this one about finding whatever you are passionate about in life and sticking with it; although Absolutely Almost is more about not being good at anything, but having great character. This story reminded of Pam Munoz Ryan's book, The Dreamer, about a boy that wants to be a poet but his dad wants him to have a profession that will give him a steady income. The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. has more humor; whereas, The Dreamer is more dramatic. Just a word of warning: Don't read this book when you are hungry. I'm off to my chocolate addiction support group.

4 Smileys

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