In the tradition of Out of My Mind, Wonder, and Mockingbird, this is an intensely moving middle grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family.
Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.
Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.
Out of the 83 books I have read in 2013, Counting by 7s is my favorite so far. I am in LOVE with this story. Willow Chance is a character that will stick with you long after you are finished with the last page. Her questions and quirks will fill your heart and her honesty and sincerity will make it full.
I love that Willow spends her days working in her backyard garden, reading strictly factual information, and writing in her observation journals. These are not typical hobbies of a twelve year old and readers will quickly find out that Willow is different. Her amazing adoptive parents are very supportive of their genius daughter and try and help her navigate confusing things like what to wear to school and how to make friends. I think that kids will identify and sympathize with Willow. Throughout the course of the story, young readers will learn that different is ok. Different is cool.
Willow Chance’s name is definitely a misnomer – her scientific way of looking at life leaves nothing to chance and she loves rules, logic and science. When the unthinkable happens, Willow is forced to realize that there are some things in life that have no explanation and are beyond our control.
This book is fantastic to pair with others that have the “Choose Kind” message. I think it will make a great read aloud and lead to excellent classroom discussion about topics such as kindness, adoption, grieving, unique families, and friendship. I plan to read this book to my 6th grade classes after we finish Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman. These two books actually have a lot in common and will go great together.
Readers of ALL ages will love Willow Chance and the cast of characters that impact her life in ways that she could never have predicted in one of her journals. If you’re looking for the next Wonder, you’ve found something even better in Counting By 7s.