Book Review: Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius who loves gardening, diagnosing medical conditions, and most of all, the number 7. Willow is bursting with knowledge and curiosity on the inside, but when she enters middle school, she discovers that the only people she finds comfort in connecting with are her adoptive parents.

Until one seemingly normal day morphs into the tragic disaster that becomes the center of Willow’s world—both her adoptive parents die in a car crash. What are the odds of losing both sets of parents in a lifetime? Apparently, Willow is right on the edge of the graph, in the one percent of the one percent. Twice without parents, she feels more alone than ever, because who is she with no family?

Willow embarks on a journey to find a permanent family to surround her. On her way, she finds her voice and casts herself magically on others. She helps to create an entire garden at a drab apartment building, inspires a taxi driver to continue his education, and makes her mark on everything she is involved in. She discovers herself surrounded by her loved ones, her chosen family, those whom she met on her journey.

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan brings fresh emotion to readers—warmth, tears, and joy. Willow Chance shows readers that family is truly important, but that those you meet on your journey are just as significant as those you have known since you were born. I was thoroughly touched by this unexpectedly beautiful story. Willow may be a genius who makes all her meals with food grown in her backyard garden; but in the end, she’s just a young girl with feelings and emotions who will make readers completely rethink everything they’ve been through and appreciate all they have much, much more. Readers will close Counting by 7s with more than a new story under their wings, because this book is a lot more than that—it’s a whole new understanding of our world.

-Lam T.

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan can be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review and Music Pairing: Counting By 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan

counting_by_7sCounting by 7s is a heartfelt novel about a genius girl who is an “angel” to many.  Willow Chance, a 12-year-old girl going into middle school has a natural green thumb.  She made chemical analysis of bee poop at the age of seven.  At the age of eight, she raised a baby green parrot and later set it free.  The story opens with her driving up to the driveway of her house to find a police car.  However, she rewinds and tells about her past.  She has always been “highly gifted” and has yet to meet a teacher who understands her or has understood her teacher, for that matter.

Fast-forwarding to the present time, the story transfers to her parents’ perspective.  Her mom is at the doctor getting a small dimple on the left side of her chest checked out.  This dent turns out to be a tumor, and she learns that she has cancer.  On the drive home, in the middle of an intersection, Willow and her parents’ world completely falls apart.  The only thing unharmed was a sign that clattered down saying, “SAFETY FIRST!  Tell me how I’m doing.  I am truck number 807.”  Ironic.

So, when Willow comes home that night, she becomes an orphan.  Though she is immediately taken in by her brand new friend’s mom, Willow feels her life is going downhill.  At this point in the story, I thought of the song “Someone Like You” by Adele.  Although Adele is singing about a relationship between her and her boyfriend, I thought about the song differently.  Willow will never find parents who replicate her deceased ones.  This part of the story was very emotional for me.  Sloan does such a fine job of displaying this mourning that you begin to wonder if her own life inspired this story somehow.  If so, I hope she was able to find “someone like you.”

The resolution, as expected, repaired Willow’s situation, and she was very happy.  Two people came together and made her ends meet.  This is the kind of story that I enjoy.  The narrator expressed Willow’s true feelings.  I feel as though Holly Goldberg Sloan wrote this from her heart.  If this novel was made into a film, the song “Strawberry Fields” by the Beatles should be played.  It represents the theme of “life is a winding path” well.  The lyrics “nothing is real” explores what life would be like with no permanent future.  It could be bad.  Or it could be good.

I would rate this story 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 for its sincere message.

-Maya Salem, 7th grade