A Review of Counting by 7s


(Credit: The Northern Light)

Bella Gonet '26, Contributing Writer


Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan is a story about the obstacle of being judged by one’s appearance, kindness, and being true to one’s individual character.  The main character is Willow Chance, an adopted girl who people might describe as “odd” or “weird”.  

I want to talk about the cover first, which has a white background with fish on it. There is a bigger fish in the middle but it is red, standing out from the other blue fishes. On the back of the book, there is an interview of the author. It says that she made the cover meaningful. The red fish in the middle represents Willow being her own person and not just going with the flow. Also, there are 49 fish on the cover, which is a multiple of 7. Willow would love this. 

The book starts out when Willow comes home from school to find that something terrible has happened that will change her life forever. But then, it flashes back to before when everything was normal, to two months ago when Willow’s life was perfect. In the beginning, you might be a little confused about what has happened, but this flashback reveals the background of the story and all its characters. 

We find out that she loves the number seven absolutely for no reason. She loves counting by sevens, learning about math involving the number seven, and basically anything to do with SEVEN. She loves plants and enjoys learning about medicine. Also, she loves most things to do with science, particularly medical conditions. For example, she constantly tries to examine any little rash her parents get. 
Sadly, Willow does not have many friends. Because of her great interest in nature and science, most children think she is weird.  Her only friend, Margaret Z. Buckle, moves to Canada in fifth grade. As she moves to Sequoia Middle School, Willow hopes she will make more friends. Unfortunately, when she gets there, it is a disaster. The kids think she is a janitor because of her clothes, which is obviously very distressing on the first day of school.  After taking a test on which the teachers think she cheated, she goes to see Dell Duke, a counselor. She makes an unlikely bond with him throughout their talks, and also gets to know a girl whose brother goes to the counselor. 

They become friends but then tragedy hits. Willow’s parents find out that her mother has cancer. On the way home from the doctor’s appointment, her parents get into an accident. Willow comes home from school to find police cars at her house, and ambulances everywhere. She finds out her parents died in the crash. She becomes very anxious and her new friend Mai Nguyen takes her home to stay with her mother. Mai’s mother owns a nail salon so they go there. 

Willow finds out that the Vietnamese family basically lives in a garage with no plumbing or luxuries. However, Willow is so tired and sad that she does not care. The Nguyen family wants to adopt her, but that would mean an inspection of their house to make sure it is suitable. So, since they know that their house will not be, they must use Dell Duke’s apartment. They must rearrange everything and clean everything because Dell is a slob.  They buy furniture, paint, and get to work. Willow is allowed to stay there for now, but weekly examinations must be made. 

The one thing that Willow Chance misses about her old home is the huge garden she had in the back. Thus, everyone decides to make a garden at Gardens of Glenwood. They get permission to plant sunflower seeds in the center of the apartments and all work hard to plant them. Eventually, they have beautiful sunflowers that, according to Willow, will die very soon and must be replanted. 

Later in the story, Willow finds out that Patti, Mai Nguyen’s mom, is trying to get to know Jairo, one of Willow’s friends. He is a taxi driver that she made a big impact on. They will get married so that they can adopt Willow.  

Willow must go to court so that Patti can get custody of her. They do, and receive custody of Willow Chance. They celebrate and go to a restaurant. Patti announces that she and Jairo are going to buy the Gardens of Glenwood building, the apartment complex where Dell Duke, the Nyugens, and Willow live. The story ends with Willow thinking about the best people in her life:  

  1. Her mom
  2. Her dad
  3. Mai
  4. Dell
  5. Quang-ha (Mai’s brother)
  6. Pattie
  7. Jairo

This book shows us that even though we go through hard times, we will get through them with family and friends to help us. Also, the book teaches us to be our own person and not worry about what people think of us. 

I completely recommend this book for reading!!! I hope you read it!! 

Bella Gonet ‘26