Counting by 7s

by Holly Goldberg Sloan (2013)

Available in Spanish

“What we expect rarely occurs; what we don’t expect is what happens.”  This is the essence of this deeply affecting novel.

Willow Chance is twelve years old and heading to middle school, which can be a tough time for any kid.  But, Willow isn’t any kid.  She is eccentric, to say the least. Her school counselor decides that she breaks his classification system. She is a category unto herself – a genius.

Willow has three primary obsessions – rare medical conditions, botany, and the number 7.  She tends to view the world through those lenses. When she meets someone new, she analyzes their potential maladies. When she is stressed, she finds sanctuary in her beloved garden.  And when she need to make sense of the world, she counts it by 7s.

Willow is an adopted child with wonderfully supportive parents.  They embrace her eccentricities and support her interests. They try to find a school where she can find some acceptance, although we all know what a minefield middle school can be for the offbeat child.

From the opening pages of the novel, tragedy strikes. Willow suddenly loses her whole world, finding herself uprooted and alone. The once gregarious and captivating girl turns within to guard against her pain.  When all seems lost, however, Willow finds a new, unofficial, and sometimes dysfunctional family to help her regain her mooring.

Counting by 7s is a story of loss, growth, and extraordinary ability. Holly Goldberg Sloan beautifully crafts a tale that takes the reader along on Willow’s journey from deep sadness to a sense of peace.  The novel features a full slate of multi-dimensional characters who all grow and change because of their relationships with Willow. They are the perfect example of what a group of friends should be – even if it takes them a while to come to that realization.

Middle school audiences will devour Counting by 7s because it reassures readers that they, too, can survive adversity. You will discover different types of families, explore mental and physical health, and learn how to handle everything that life throws at you, right alongside Willow and her friends.

If you’re looking for a worthwhile and touching title, read and share Counting by 7s with your middle school this year.

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