Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan – Review by Sherry Gick

I was thrilled to receive an ARC of Counting by 7s at ALA in Chicago back in June!  Not only did I receive a copy, but I was also able to stand in line, meet Holly Goldberg Sloan and have her sign my ARC copy!  I expressed my excitement to read her book because of all the good things I was hearing about it on Twitter.


After finishing reading Counting by 7s, I sent out a tweet saying “Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan is the best book ever recommended by Colby Sharp!”


Yeah, I said it.


You’re shaking your head in disbelief. You know Colby recommends books ALL THE TIME.




But…dare I say it…


Colby and I sometimes have differing opinions about books.


**ducks and hides as people throw things**


Honestly, it really shouldn’t be all that shocking considering he’s a fourth grade teacher (now third grade) and I’m a 6th-12th grade librarian.  Our focus is quite different.  Our preferred genres are different.  (Colby likes mostly realistic and historical books; I love fantasy, science-fiction, and even enjoy #kissybooks…)


But that’s what makes Nerdy Book Club so cool! I appreciate hearing from others who read genres I don’t enjoy and hearing what books they think are great.  Sometimes I agree; sometimes I don’t.  And that’s okay! We all still love books and sharing about them!


So, back to Counting by 7s


I was intrigued at first by the blurb on the front:  “If you’re lost you might need to swim against  the tide.”  It sounded a bit like Wonder… (which I love…lest you think differently!)   The summary on the back talks about the main character, Willow Chance, being “a 12 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 parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life…until now..”   I don’t know what that summary says to you, but to this former special education teacher of many years it screams Asperger’s Syndrome.  Sold.  If there’s a story about a character on the autism spectrum, I’m reading it.


I dove into the story, knowing there would be a sad part.  (This isn’t a spoiler because it’s on the back cover!)  Later while reading, I once again reached out to my Twitter friends to make sure this wasn’t a crying book because many of Colby’s favorites are. I’m okay with sad parts, but I don’t want to continuously sob throughout an entire book.  Thankfully, I didn’t.  Yes, something tragically sad happens and I did cry, but the story continues. Willow Chance endures and grows.


So, why did I love this book so much?


First, I loved it because of the main character, Willow Chance.  I loved her idiosyncrasies, obsessions, and demeanor.  Her views of the world around her, particularly other people, intrigued and delighted me.  As she voiced her thoughts, the voice inside my head often said, “Oh Willow, that is NOT going to go over the way you’re thinking…”  I found myself rooting for Willow the entire book.  She could definitely be considered an underdog.  Many, many strikes against her and yet, she persevered and overcame.


I also loved it because of all the other characters.  Sloan writes amazing, realistic characters filled with quirks:  Real people that you’ve seen at the grocery store and wondered about their stories.  You get to know the neatest people in Counting by 7s and wish you could really meet them in real life.  Know what else is great about the characters?  They’re not all the same middle-class Caucasian characters.  The variety in ethnicity and cultures is refreshing!


And the story… oh, the story.  Sigh. It just reaches out, grabs you, and won’t let go. You want to know what happens next and experience all the feelings right along with Willow and the other characters in the story.


Counting by 7s is definitely a middle grades must read for 2013.  The prevalent themes of family, loss, grief, and belonging make it a book that begs to be shared and discussed. Order your copy from an independent bookstore this week!  Don’t be surprised if you can’t put it down. It really is that good! Thank you, Holly Goldberg Sloan for writing such a beautiful, moving book.

Sherry Gick is a School Librarian in Rossville, Indiana. Also known as @libraryfanatic on Twitter, she is fanatical about many things including libraries, authors, books, reading, Doctor Who, and running.  Follow her fanatical thoughts at