Based on a true story, All of the Above is the delightful and suspenseful story of four inner city students and their quest to build the world's largest tetrahedron. Weaving together the stories of the kids, their teachers, and the community that surrounds them, award-winning author Shelley Pearsall has written a vividly engaging story about the human spirit. Filled with unexpected humor, poignant characters and quiet brilliance, All of the Above is a surprising gem.
James, Rhondell, Sharice, and Marcel live varied lives in the same inner-city neighborhood, attending the same school. What begins as a frantic bid by their math teacher, Mr. Collins, to reach above the odds in a dispirited teaching environment, soon turns into a moving novel about building community. The story is revealed through multi-voiced first person narratives, somewhat reminiscent of Paul Fleischman's Seedfolks. At first it appears that Mr. Collins has cracked under the pressure in math class. But soon it is clear that he is putting forward something between challenge and dream in attempting to launch a tetrahedron project in an after-school club. Building the world's biggest Sierpinski tetrahedron, beating the record of a California school, attempting to make it into the Guinness Book of Recordsall these goals seem impossible. Still, little by little, as the ownership of the club shifts from teacher to students, the fellowship it engenders begins to make an impact on their lives. Pearsall draws us into the challenges and longings of those lives. Of the adult characters, Marcel's father Willy Q, and Rhondell's Aunt Asia, are particularly memorable. Javaka Steptoe's black-and-white line drawings, tetrahedron details, and barbecue recipes, all add texture and context. An afterword offers information on tetrahedrons and on the true 2002 Cleveland middle school tetrahedron project that inspired this book.