By Holly Goldberg Sloan
Recommended by: Roz Guterman, reading teacher, Boynton Middle School, Ithaca Teachers Association
Suitable for: Grades 5-8
Why I chose this book: This novel is perfect for middle school students who struggle with who they are and how to fit in. The main character, Willow, is a shy, inquisitive genius whose parents encourage her scientific and mathematical pursuits — in particular, an elaborate backyard garden. Willow's emotional journey through the shock and grief that accompany the loss of her parents in an accident mirrors the perseverance of the seedlings she nurtures. Sloan's other culturally diverse characters gently blossom, too. Counting by 7s is a compelling read that can teach students that first impressions are often wrong and that good can grow out of tragedy.
How teachers can use this book: The rich themes can be used in language arts to teach about how families can all be different and how to find one's place in the world.
Willow's obsession with the number seven can be used in social studies and math as a starting point for researching the significance of numbers throughout history and in different cultures.
What I liked best: Masterfully crafted, Counting by 7s had me smiling and wistfully nodding my head. Sloan's extraordinarily well-developed characters all have imperfections that are recognizable, making them dynamic, endearing and unique. The plot cleverly propels these disparate individuals toward a heartwarming conclusion that arises from the seeds of Willow's eccentricities and misfortune.
About the author: Holly Goldberg Sloan is also the author of I'll Be There. Go to hollygoldbergsloan.com/.
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