Endings Can Be Beginnings: Counting by 7s (2013) by Holly Goldberg SloanCounting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Published by Penguin on August 29th 2013
Genres: Family, Parents, School & Education
Pages: 400

Suggested age range: 9 and up

“And endings are always the beginnings of something else.”

The Book:

This heartwarming story opens with a tragedy, but is surprisingly hopeful and unique throughout the rest of the novel. In the narrative, we meet twelve year-old genius, Willow, who counts by sevens, is a math whiz, and loves making things grow. The story charts Willo’ws journey to discovering a community and a new family. The beauty and wonder of the natural world is celebrated through Willow’s reflective and unique perspective of her surroundings.

Spirituality in Counting by 7s:

Willow’s journey into becoming comfortable with herself, a girl without parents, is one spiritual aspect of the story. I was particularly interested in the way the author revealed Willow’s spirituality though her gardening. The people Willow encounters affect her spiritual identity, and with them she develops community. The way Willow’s community support and love her represents a part of the story I fell in love with—as a reader I was cheering for Willow and the search for her to discover a place in a community that would value her. Her discovery of these people and  of a purpose really made this a strong book for me.

Who Should Read This Book:

This middle grade novel is similar to ones by Kate DiCamillo in that I think it’s a story almost any age would enjoy. Whether you’re twelve or twenty, I think you can appreciate this story and Willow’s journey as she navigates a world without family. Readers may discover some aspects of Willow’s journey to relate to—we are all searching for belonging and identity in some way, and this journey doesn’t stop at a certain age, though it may become easier.

Using this book with young readers? After reading the book, you could give your readers the opportunity to either journal in response to a question such as: What is one thing in your life that makes you feel like you belong?” or draw a picture about something in the book they liked. Arts-based response would be fabulous with this book. Either way, there is a lot of potential for curriculum with upper elementary students, or any age for that matter. Discussion is a must for any activity that you use with your young readers.

The Final Word:

The book is refreshing in the way it’s not predictable and features some surprising turns. That’s one of the reasons why I give this book such a high rating. I leave you with a quote from the book that relates well to that notion:

“What we expect rarely occurs; what we don’t expect is what happens.”

This 2013 story is not to be missed, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the book, in spite of my worries about it being too sad initially. Don’t be put off by the potentially tragic premise—Sloan’s novel is brilliant!




What Katie Read

9 Comments on Endings Can Be Beginnings: Counting by 7s (2013) by Holly Goldberg Sloan

  1. Oh this sounds wonderful, but I have a feeling I would be sobbing all the way through it. It will be going on the must be read list. Thanks for a great recommendation on the Kid Lit Blog Hop

  2. I agree with your lovely review. Willow’s voice is so resilient from page one! This is a special book. I’m glad to have happened upon your blog via the KidLit blog hop – thanks for playing!

    • I’m glad you stopped by and read my review–it really is a strong story, and I have already been recommending it to quite a few people that ended up really enjoying it. I love that feeling of recommending something to a friend and discovering that they too loved it. 😀

  3. Sounds really good. I was attracted because my guinea pigs count in sevens (4 toes front, 3 back, each side). It’s complicated maths once you get to mulitplication!

  4. When this book was first released and I began hearing the buzz about it, I ended up reading at least the first chapter, I think, in the cafe at Barnes. It’s been in my mind to eventually read it (probably purchase it, but I have no more room and an ever-increasing debt). I hope I do!

  5. That book cover itself is so powerful. Willow is my daughter’s middle name. That alone would be enough to hook her into the story! Thanks for sharing your recommendation in the Kid Lit Blog Hop!

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