|Counting by 7s
Author: Sloan, Holly Goldberg
Twelve-year-old genius and outsider Willow Chance must figure out how to connect with other people and find a surrogate family for herself after her parents are killed in a car accident.
Download a Teacher's Guide
|Accelerated Reader Information:
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 5.60
Points: 10.0 Quiz: 160220
|Reading Counts Information:
Interest Level: 6-8
Reading Level: 4.70
Points: 16.0 Quiz: 61260
Kirkus Reviews (07/15/13)
School Library Journal (+) (00/09/13)
Booklist (+) (08/01/13)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (+) (00/09/13)
The Hornbook (+) (00/09/13)
Full Text Reviews:
Bulletin for the Center... - 09/01/2013 Losing your parents once is bad enough, but Willow Chance is unlucky enough to experience such a bereavement twice, losing her birth parents when she was adopted in her infancy and her beloved adoptive parents when they’re killed in a car crash shortly after Willow starts at her new middle school. The gifted, eccentric, and somewhat obsessive Willow has no obvious place to stay until a foster home is found for her; she therefore ends up making a home of convenience with schoolmate Mai Nguyen, Mai’s sullen older brother Quang-ha, and their hard-working mother Pattie in a situation made possible by the school counselor, the inept Dell Duke, who’s coerced by Pattie into covering for them with the authorities. What is initially an arrangement of desperation turns into a new life for the Nguyens and for Dell as well as for Willow, but Willow knows that it must all come to an end when her social worker finally manages to find her a foster placement. There are echoes of Horvath’s Everything on a Waffle (BCCB 3/01) in this quirky story of life after tragedy, but it’s still a deeply original tale; Willow’s narration effectively conveys both her outlier tendencies, with her fierce focus on scientific details of botany and her love of the number seven, and the utter, flooding grief she suffers in the wake of her loss. Characterization is sharp yet joyful, with Willow and Mai bonding over not only their racial outsiderhood (Willow is mixed race and Mai Vietnamese) but also their ability to take charge of a situation or an inept adult, while the secondary cast is also afforded nuance and development. Generous-sized print and compact chapters mean the story moves more quickly than its length suggests, and when Willow finally puts down new roots both figuratively and literally (she renovates a garden at their apartment complex), readers will rejoice. DS - Copyright 2013 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
Booklist - 08/01/2013 *Starred Review* In a voice that is frank, charming, and delightfully odd, Willow Chance narrates the strange and heartbreaking circumstances that lead her to find an offbeat, patchwork quilt of a family. As an adopted, self-identified “person of color,” precocious genius Willow unabashedly knows that she is different, but her parents love and support her idiosyncrasies, such as wearing her gardening outfit to school, her preoccupation with disease, her anthropological curiosity about her peers, and her obsession with the number seven. That self-assuredness shines through Willow’s narrative and becomes crucial to her survival after the unexpected death of her parents, which makes Willow a prime candidate for life in a group home—an environment that could be disastrous for an unusual child like her. Luckily, she finds new friends who are compelled to protect her: Mai and her family, who live in the garage behind the nail salon they own, and Willow’s slouch of a guidance counselor, Dell. Sloan (I’ll Be There, 2011) has masterfully created a graceful, meaningful tale featuring a cast of charming, well-rounded characters who learn sweet—but never cloying—lessons about resourcefulness, community, and true resilience in the face of loss. - Copyright 2013 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 09/01/2013 Gr 5–8—Twelve-year-old Willow Chase lived with her adoptive parents in Bakersfield, California. There in the midst of the high desert, she grew a garden in her backyard, her sanctuary. She was excited about starting a new school, hoping this time she might fit in, might find a friend. Willow had been identified in preschool as highly gifted, most of the time causing confusion and feelings of ineptness in her teachers. Now at her new school she is accused of cheating because no one has ever finished the state proficiency test in just 17 minutes, let alone gotten a perfect score. Her reward is behavioral counseling with Dell Duke, an ineffectual counselor with organizational and social issues of his own. She does make a friend when Mai Nguyen brings her brother, Quang-ha, to his appointment, and their lives begin to intertwine when Willow's parents are killed in an auto accident. For the second time in her life she is an orphan, forced to find a "new normal." She is taken in temporarily by Mai's mother, who must stay ahead of Social Services. While Willow sees herself as just an observer, trying to figure out the social norms of regular family life, she is actually a catalyst for change, bringing together unsuspecting people and changing their lives forever. The narration cleverly shifts among characters as the story evolves. Willow's philosophical and intellectual observations contrast with Quang-ha's typical teenage boy obsessions and the struggles of a Vietnamese family fighting to live above the poverty level. Willow's story is one of renewal, and her journey of rebuilding the ties that unite people as a family will stay in readers' hearts long after the last page.—Cheryl Ashton, Amherst Public Library, OH - Copyright 2013 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.