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Counting by 7s Hardcover – August 29, 2013

395 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of 2013 : Counting by 7's is a delightful, powerful, and beautifully written book that I can’t forget and want to give to everyone around me. Holly Goldberg Sloan's quirky characters nestle into your heart and stay there, particularly 12-year-old Willow Chance. A young genius obsessed with the number seven, plants, and diagnosing medical conditions (especially skin disorders that she can surreptitiously photograph) Willow is a true outsider looking for a way in. Her parents tether her to the world, and when they are killed in a car crash Willow’s comfortable sphere is shattered. Though a tragedy, the loss of her parents is also Willow’s entry into the lives of others. The bond she forms with an unlikely cast of characters is heartfelt and transformative. Like Willow’s beloved plants, these are people putting down new roots and rising toward the sun. --Seira Wilson

From School Library Journal

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, OHα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 770L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Books; 1ST edition (August 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803738552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803738553
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (395 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Holly Goldberg Sloan was born in Michigan and spent her childhood living in Holland, Turkey, Washington DC, California and Eugene, Oregon. She has written and directed a number of successful feature films. The mother of two sons, Holly lives with her husband, Gary Rosen, in Santa Monica, California. Her novel I'll Be There has been acknowledged by:

* Children's Literature Council of Southern California 2012 Award for YA Fiction
* YALSA Best Books for Young Adults (2012)
* A Los Angeles Library Best Book For Teens (2012)
* Milwaukee County Teen Book Finalist (2011)
* Chicago Public Library Best of the Best (2012)
* Field Family Teen Author Pick Free Public Library Philadelphia 2011

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 84 people found the following review helpful By N. S. VINE VOICE on August 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Meet twelve year-old black, bespectacled, self-aware genius and gardener Willow Chase, who is obsessed with the number 7; obsessed with studying and observing medical conditions, and obsessed with plants. Not long into the story, Willow is suddenly thrown out of the Garden when her white adoptive parents die in a horrific car accident.

Leading up to the accident, Willow has, herself, been following a collision course that begins with being referred by her school principal to a counselor named Dell Duke, this being the result of the principal's determination that Willow has cheated on a State standardized test. (She completed the test in 17 minutes and was the only student in the State to answer every question correctly, which might provide a clue as to why she hasn't been at all engaged with middle school, other than as a silent observer of bizarre behaviors.)

Counselor Dell Duke (who categorizes the students he works with as THE STRANGE, MISFITS, ODDBALLS, and LONE WOLVES), quickly learns that he needs a whole new category for this young woman. And in the wake of Willow's second loss of parents in her short life (having already been adopted the first time), it will be counselor Dell Duke; plus one of the other students he works with named Nguyen Quang-ha; plus Quang-ha's sister Nguyen Thi Mai; plus Quang-ha and Mai's mother Pattie; plus a taxi driver named Jairo Hernandez; who will affect and be affected by this amazing girl.

COUNTING BY 7s reminds me of BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE because of the way that Willow is saved from going to the pound (being thrown into The System) by unlikely heroine Pattie Nguyen (Quang-ha and Mai's mother), the Vietnamese immigrant proprietress of a nail salon.
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79 of 87 people found the following review helpful By Donna Smith on November 21, 2013
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So well written. Good for middle grades,YA and even adults. Not morose or disturbing, no boyfriend-girlfriend stuff, not fast paced action, no bad language, just good thought provoking reading.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Donovan on September 21, 2013
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When you read a brief description about a book which essentially labels the 12-year-old protagonist Willow as a genius misfit and an orphan (twice over), one has to assume that it's a sad, sad book.

But it's not. It's a quirky, uplifting, heartwarming book that is -- yes -- about misfits (several more enter the cast of characters) and loneliness and loss, but also about taking chances, healing, starting over, and learning to connect.

When Willow's parents are both killed in an accident, her life becomes entangled with her school guidance counselor Dell Duke, an underachieving sad person himself, and the Nguyen family. She only met Mai and Quang-Ha a few weeks before when she was early for her session and Quang-Ha was late in his, but she felt a connection with the slightly-older Mai, who began to take charge of them all, even Dell Duke. Since they are with her when she is notified of the news, they sort of claim squatter's rights to her.

I laughed out loud several times at Sloan's observations about human nature, whether they were conveyed through Willow's POV or Quang-Ha's or Dell's. My heart also warmed at the kindness and care.

Is it super-realistic? Maybe not. The portrayal of Willow's grief might be a bit off, but honestly I think it was pretty right on. The other elements, such as the way the foster system takes care of Willow might not be so realistic, but that is one of the things I love about middle grade fiction. People seem to hold books like this that tackle "issues" to a higher standard of realism, but I think that the slightly less realistic and more "fairy tale" approach is what make me love books (and movies) that deal with heavier topics.

Adults have taken to reading middle grade and young adult books about wizards and vampires and teenagers put in an arena to fight to the death. I wish that more adults would read books such as this one. I loved it.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful By J.Prather TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Counting by 7's is simply a beautiful story. It speaks from the heart with a raw level of emotion that was unexpected and seldom seen in middle grade fiction. Its life affirming message is masterfully delivered with prose that is well written and thought provoking. There are absolutely no mis-steps as the author paints a picture of a young girl destroyed by grief and rebuilt by love.

Willow Chance is a twelve year old genius. She is devoted to her garden, her parents, and quietly learning to manage the intricacies of middle school when both of her parents are killed in a car accident. Her life becomes chaos, and it's only through the efforts of an unlikely group of people that she discovers a future for herself. Willow is an astounding character that I won't soon forget. She touched my heart, and made this story a delight to read from start to finish.

Willow is surrounded by a group of unique people carefully crafted and nuanced. None of these characters are perfect or clichéd, and always manage to deliver surprises. They each come into Willow's life needing something, and their stories add to a narrative that becomes complex and increasingly inspirational as they are all effected by Willow's unique view of the world.

I could point to many instances in the plot that were contrived, when events relied just a bit too much on coincidence to be believable, and when things work out just a bit too easy. To do so would be to deny the slight touch of magic that seems to permeate these pages. This is a story that made me smile. It made me want to read it again the minute I finished it. I was sorry it was over. I wanted to be with Willow as she mulled over the life lessons to be learned from a plant.
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