Reviews for Counting by 7s
Booklist Reviews 2013 August #1
*Starred Review* In a voice that is frank, charming, and delightfully odd, Willow Chance narrates the strange and heartbreaking circumstances that lead her to find an offbeat, patchwork quilt of a family. As an adopted, self-identified "person of color," precocious genius Willow unabashedly knows that she is different, but her parents love and support her idiosyncrasies, such as wearing her gardening outfit to school, her preoccupation with disease, her anthropological curiosity about her peers, and her obsession with the number seven. That self-assuredness shines through Willow's narrative and becomes crucial to her survival after the unexpected death of her parents, which makes Willow a prime candidate for life in a group home--an environment that could be disastrous for an unusual child like her. Luckily, she finds new friends who are compelled to protect her: Mai and her family, who live in the garage behind the nail salon they own, and Willow's slouch of a guidance counselor, Dell. Sloan (I'll Be There, 2011) has masterfully created a graceful, meaningful tale featuring a cast of charming, well-rounded characters who learn sweet--but never cloying--lessons about resourcefulness, community, and true resilience in the face of loss. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2014 Spring
After her parents' death, twelve-year-old Willow Chance, a genius obsessed with plants and medical conditions, is taken in by her only friend, high schooler Mai Nguyen, Mai's mother Pattie, and Mai's surly brother, Quang-ha. What sets this novel apart from the average orphan-finds-a-home book is its lack of sentimentality, its truly multicultural cast, and its precise, poignant tone.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #5
Twelve-year-old only child Willow Chance is a genius obsessed with plants and medical conditions: "the only reason that I regularly leave the house. . .is to observe sickness in the general population." Nevertheless, her loving adoptive parents send her off to middle school with high hopes. Unrealistically, as it turns out. The one bright spot in her school week is seeing sad-sack counselor Dell Duke, through whom she meets high-schooler Mai Nguyen and her surly brother, Quang-ha. Willow throws herself into the possibility of friendship, teaching herself Vietnamese and feeling euphoric about finally feeling part of a group. When disaster strikes and Willow's parents are killed in an accident, Mai brings Willow home to her mother, Pattie (nee Dung), proprietor of Happy Polish Nails. These disparate characters, plus cabdriver Jairo Hernandez, ultimately connect with one another, forming a new family. What sets this novel apart from the average orphan-finds-a-home book is its lack of sentimentality, its truly multicultural cast (Willow describes herself as a "person of color"; Mai and Quang-ha are of mixed Vietnamese, African American, and Mexican ancestry), and its tone. Willow narrates her own chapters, and her clinical, scientific, pared-down observation of her own grief and healing makes events more poignant, not less. Chapters centering on the other five characters are in the third person but otherwise share Willow's precision and close observation. And if the resolution is a bit too pat and contrived, it's still the ending readers will be hopi[Wed Sep 17 17:47:20 2014] enhancedContent.pl: Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\enhancedContent.pl line 249.
ng for with all their hearts. martha v. parravano Copyright 2013 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2013 July #2
A story of renewal and belonging that succeeds despite, not because of, its contrivances. Twelve-year-old genius Willow Chance was adopted as an infant by her "so white" parents (Willow is mixed race) and loses them both in one afternoon in a convenient (plotwise) car accident. Outside of her parents, she has a hard time making friends since her mishmash of (also convenient, plotwise) interests--disease, plants and the number seven--doesn't appeal to her fellow middle-grade students. Losing her parents propels her on her hero's-journey quest to find belonging. Along the way, her fate intertwines with those of a confident high school girl named Mai and her surly brother, Quang-ha; their energetic, manicure-salon–owning mother, Pattie (formerly Dung); Jairo Hernandez, a taxi driver with an existential crisis; and a failure of a school counselor named Dell Duke. With these characters' ages running the gamut from 12 to high school to mid-30s and their voices included in a concurrent third-person narration along with Willow's precise, unemotional first-person narration, readers may well have a hard time engaging. Relying heavily on serendipity--a technique that only adds, alas, to the "leave no stone unturned" feeling of the story--the plot resolves in a bright and heartfelt, if predictable conclusion. Despite its apparent desire to be all things to all people, this is, in the end, an uplifting story. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 July #2
Willow Chance is an extremely precocious and analytical 12-year-old "genius," and she doesn't fit in with other kids (though she'd doubtlessly find a kindred spirit in Lauren Tarshis's Emma-Jean Lazarus). Despite Willow's social difficulties, she makes an impression on everyone around her--whether it's Dell Duke, a lonely and ineffectual school district counselor, or Jairo Hernandez, the taxi driver Willow hires to drive her to her meetings with Dell. After Willow's parents die in a car crash, her new friend Mai Nguyen persuades her mother to take Willow in; despite the Nguyens' poverty, their makeshift home and open arms help bring Willow back from the void. As in Sloan's I'll Be There, the narration shifts among multiple viewpoints, from Willow's cerebral first-person perspective to third-person chapters that demonstrate how her presence is transformational to those around her, young and old. But while elements of Willow's story are indeed extraordinary and even inspirational, Sloan's somewhat portentous storytelling gets in the way of letting readers reach their own conclusions about the ways people save each other. Ages 10-up. Agent: Amy Berkower, Writers House. (Aug.) [Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC
School Library Journal Reviews 2013 September
Gr 5-8--Twelve-year-old Willow Chase lived with her adoptive parents in Bakersfield, California. There in the midst of the high desert, she grew a garden in her backyard, her sanctuary. She was excited about starting a new school, hoping this time she might fit in, might find a friend. Willow had been identified in preschool as highly gifted, most of the time causing confusion and feelings of ineptness in her teachers. Now at her new school she is accused of cheating because no one has ever finished the state proficiency test in just 17 minutes, let alone gotten a perfect score. Her reward is behavioral counseling with Dell Duke, an ineffectual counselor with organizational and social issues of his own. She does make a friend when Mai Nguyen brings her brother, Quang-ha, to his appointment, and their lives begin to intertwine when Willow's parents are killed in an auto accident. For the second time in her life she is an orphan, forced to find a "new normal." She is taken in temporarily by Mai's mother, who must stay ahead of Social Services. While Willow sees herself as just an observer, trying to figure out the social norms of regular family life, she is actually a catalyst for change, bringing together unsuspecting people and changing their lives forever. The narration cleverly shifts among characters as the story evolves. Willow's philosophical and intellectual observations contrast with Quang-ha's typical teenage boy obsessions and the struggles of a Vietnamese family fighting to live above the poverty level. Willow's story is one of renewal, and her journey of rebuilding the ties that unite people as a family will stay in readers' hearts long after the last page.--Cheryl Ashton, Amherst Public Library, OH [Page 148]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.