Monday, July 27, 2015
Counting by 7s - Holly Goldberg Sloan
1. She's different (as in strange). And a genius.
2. Almost everything interests her. But some things--like plants and medical conditions--interest her more than others.
3. She has learned--the hard way--that life can be extremely unfair.
4. She understands that family is what you make it, and that the people who understand you and choose to have you in their lives are the most important people.
5. She doesn't have a lot of friends, but she would do anything for the ones she does have.
6. She knows that the most wonderful thing in the world is feeling like you belong.
7. Her story will make you laugh, cry, and appreciate your friends, family, and the things around you in a whole new way. (Summary from back of the book and image from Amazon.com)
My Review: If you are looking for your next feel-good read after Wonder, this is your book. (Spoiler!!! Although, not a huge one since it occurs in the first part of the book.) Willow is an adopted only child who must grieve the loss of her parents and learn to move on. But that's just a basic gist of the story. There is so much more. Willow is incredibly unique, her character truly multi-faceted, and quirky as a child can be. She's pretty much the epitome of TAG (Talented and Gifted). She's also endearingly accepting of others and the most logical thinker I've come across in a children's book. And this is only the main character. The rest of the characters are as deep in complexity and flaws as Willow. I think that aspect is the reason this book is so poignant. Each character grows, evolves, and develops into people you do more than just tolerate; you start to care about them.
My second favorite aspect of this book is the details. Sloan is masterful at weaving in details--not too many, but not few. While you think you can picture Willow, her parents, the Nguyens, even Dell, the descriptions are just enough to give you an image, but not the whole picture. Sloan paints Willow's parents as such incredible people--mind you, all of this is from the perspective of a child--but you learn details like her mother being the kind of person that elicits smiles from almost everyone just by her presence. The details are nuanced, subtle, powerful.
The third (and final, for the purposes of this blog) aspect I love about book is one of the underlying messages it shares. Jairo mentions to Willow that she is his angel there to guide him. I believe Jairo truly believes this, but in reality each person is in some way an angel for someone else. Pattie Nguyen is an angel for Dell as an impetus for change. Mai is an angel for Willow by intuitively understanding and advocating for Willow. Jairo is an angel for Willow driving her to places she cannot as a small child. In so many small ways these interactions between each character shows how they are all angels for each other. This is the message I love: We are all here to help and learn and grow from each other. When we reach out to help each other, when we look outside ourselves and give, that is when we, and the world, are at our best.
While this is a children's book, and the ending is so very 'feel-good' there is still plenty of pain and suffering. I feel comfortable handing this book to my 9 year old for content, but I also know she'd grow and learn more about tragic loss and human interaction than from many books aimed at her age group.
For the sensitive reader: This is pretty clean. There is only a reference to the teenage boy enjoying TV shows that have women playing volleyball.
Rating: 5 Stars
Sum it up: A beautiful story of heartbreak over death and healing.