Counting by 7s


The short sentences. The inner observational monologue. The enquiry about people’s actions and reactions. The constant calculations, e.g., ‘Mr Dell Duke had a large jar of jelly beans on his desk….. I considered calculating how many were in the glass container. The volume of one jelly bean h(pi)(d.2)^2 2cmx3 (1.5cm/2)^2=3.375 or 27/8 cubic centimetres. But jellybeans aren’t really perfect cylinders. They are irregular.‘ Willow’s perceptions of people, her interaction and her routines, are driven by her extreme intelligence and enthusiasms for particular things, like maths, food, hygiene, the environment. It sets her apart. She likes it that way.

When tragedy hits Willow, her apartness makes us anticipate that her safe place has been exposed. We worry about how she will manage and who will help her. Yet, Willow is resilient. Somehow the people around her are more than the parts of her counting and more than our counting too. These people emerge as she could never have anticipated, rather like sunflower seeds.

‘Counting by 7’s‘ is a wise, perfectly written- even to the sentence shapes- book, that I urge you to read. It is different, wonderful, empathetic and loving.


Counting by 7s

Holly Goldberg Sloan


On the first day of middle school Willow determines that the best way to announce herself is to wear her full arborist costume. With her apiarist helmet and pull-along bag, she announces herself as different, someone to be avoided, or laughed at. The separation continues at school, and at home, until tragedy strikes. This is Willow finding her feet, everything good happens in sevens, doesn’t it? Willow is a delightful character, her genius, yet social uncertainty so evident, so in need of our reader protection and championing. Will anyone penetrate Willow’s carefully orchestrated wall? Meet Willow in ‘Counting by 7s‘. We recommend this book for older readers.


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