Friday, October 4, 2013

Thoughts on Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

I'm not sure how this book found me. I don't remember where I heard of it or why I placed it on hold at the library long before it came out. But, the other day, an email alert said it had come in and I checked it out and there it was in my hands. 

It seems appropriate. Since, this is a book about unexpected connections. About sitting in the back seat of a taxi, staring at the mole on someone's neck and suggesting the driver see a doctor, all of which leads to removing a cancerous growth that leads to wondering what other lives could be lived. And living them.

It's about transferring seeds from a wet paper towel to a plastic cup to a pot of soil to the earth. It's about one young girl whose life is suddenly swept into sudden motion, at a time when her interpretation of the world wants to go silent, still, by the death of her parents.

I love books that transcend labels and age grades and this book does. It is skillfully narrated by a 12 year old genius, then interrupted by a sometimes omniscient narrator telling the stories of a taxi driver, a lazy school counselor, a Vietnamese owner of a nail salon, her determined daughter and her underachiever son.

I like that it trusts young readers to understand. And I like that it allows 'older' readers to remember that feeling, you know, this one (I wish that I were old enough to just go live in the Amazon and study plants there, because it's possible that one of them holds the key to the cure for cancer. But the obstacles are insurmountable. I don't even have a passport.)

I read this odd little book of big and beautiful ideas in one sitting. I loved the big-hearted Willow Chance, who thinks in precise chain links, who knows that planting a seed is, by definition, the beginning of something:

This is amazing.

If plants made sounds, it would all be different. But they communicate with color and shape and size and texture.

They don't meow or bark or tweet.

We think they don't have eyes, but they see the angle of the sun and the rise of the moon. They don't just feel the wind; they change directions because of it. 

Before you think I'm crazy (which is always a possibility), look outside.

Right now.

I'm hoping your view isn't of a parking lot or the side of a building.

I'm imagining you see a tall tree with delicate leaves. You catch sight of swaying grass in a wide field. Weeds pushing up through a crack in the sidewalk are in the distance somewhere. We are surrounded.

I'm asking you to pay attention in a new way and view it all as being Alive.

With a capital A.


  1. Okay, I definitely have to read this. I've seen quiet buzz growing, and almost took it out of the library, but it was one of those days where I could already scarcely lift the pile of books in my arms!

  2. I hadn't heard of this book. I'll add it to my list (speaking of which, I just finished Three Times Lucky). We'll have to talk. :)