Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

counting by 7s

That’s the thing about time. A second can feel like forever if what follows is heartbreak.”
~Willow Chance (character), from Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan, pp. 350-351.

Though this book is written for children (approx grades 6 thru 9) and the voice is young, it is the voice of experience and the voice of genius. Willow Chance functions by information and logic, yet learns to bend and act outside that guiding structure. She meets people and touches their lives, just as they touch hers. The story is peopled by unique, quirky, and sympathetic characters. We experience them through Willow’s eyes and through their words and actions. The ultimate message of this book is that people are survivors, and that people need other people. It was charming and humorous, poignant and profound.

Here are a few more words from Willow.

“I know that I will think about this day many times.
Then I realize that it is the 7th day of the month. And I’m not surprised.
7 is a natural number.
And it is a prime number.
There are 7 basic types of catastrophes.
And 7 days of the week.
Isaac Newton identified 7 colors of the rainbow as:
Dell put people in 7 categories:
Lone Wolf
I have my own system of order.
I think that at every stage of living there are 7 people who matter in your world.
They are the people who are inside you.
They are people you rely on.They are people who daily change your life.
For me I count:

(spoiler avoided here)

I decide that when my head begins to pound from now on. I will shut my eyes and count to 7, instead of by 7s.
I see each one of these people like the colors of the rainbow.
They are vivid and distinct.
And they hold a permanent place in my heart.
…I return to the stairs, and as I sit here in a slice of winter sunlight, two small birds find their way down to the honeysuckle planted next to the bamboo.
They speak to me, not in words, but in action.
They tell me that life goes on.”

(pp. 376-378)

Sloan, H. (2013). Counting by 7s. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers.


Every Day Discussion

Every Day cover

One of the things I love most about my job is my teen book discussion group. It started out small and was mostly girls, but it has grown over time and now has a few boys as well. Last month I was surprised when the meeting had only boys in attendance. This month, it was 50-50 — closer to the typical mix.

We had an amazing discussion of the book “Every Day” by David Levithan. It is not for younger teens, but was good with these high-schoolers. The book could be described as Quantum Leap meets teen romance — when the romance has really good character development. It is essentially a highly engaging commentary on life, love, relationships, family, humanity, gender, race told in 40+ daily vignettes.

Because the main character is only a human essence or a soul, it allowed a very understated exploration of gender and orientation, though a couple of the teens found it more difficult to identify with the character, because s/he was in a different body each day. I thought it was a brilliant way to explore the human condition in many of its aspects.

Admiration for David Levithan!