[Poetry Friday] The Poetry of Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

poetry friday

Myra here.

I am glad to be joining the Poetry Friday community this week hosted by the lovely Katya Czaja of Write. Sketch. Repeat.

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We our now at the tail-end of our current reading theme and we edited our widget to include the current campaign on the need for diverse books, because we feel that they go together beautifully. My sharing this week is a little unusual as it is not a novel-in-verse, but I just know that I could not resist sharing this book with you, poetry-loving friends. This is one of the middle grade novels that made me look at the world differently, allowing me to feel alive more than usual.

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Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Counting by 7s introduced me to Willow Chance, a 12 year old brilliant girl who speaks truth like no other. She describes herself in this fashion:

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This novel would challenge the reader’s views about what it means to be a family. It would make one reflect on what it means to be an (1) oddball (2) misfit, (3) lone wolf, (4) weirdo, (5) genius, (6) dictator or (7) mutant. That is, if you fit into any of Dell Duke’s Groups of the Strange. This is a novel that has made me laugh and cry and laugh all at the same time, one of the novels that makes me want to read very slowly, savoring each word, relishing the language, taking everything in so gradually because I can not bear to leave this world that Sloan crafted. Such is the power of the novel that I willingly suspended my cynicism, disbelief, and just went where the tide will take me, because, hey, I am rooting for this young girl who lost her adoptive parents in a freak accident, whose school believes she cheated in a test, and who has virtually no one else in her life except a bumbling counselor who has no clue what he’s doing, a Vietnamese family who found themselves volunteering to care for this strange girl, simply because it’s the most human thing to do under the circumstances, not to mention the Mexican cab driver whose life was forever changed because of Willow.

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Before her adoptive parents died, Willow Chance counted by 7s to provide herself a semblance of calm, allowing her to make sense of the world, and to put things in perspective. However, after her parents died, she stopped counting by 7s.

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I also love how she found sanctuary in two places: her garden – you will discover how sunflowers figure in the novel so beautifully:

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… and the library. For this one I took a photo of the Central Public Library here in Singapore, specifically My Tree House which is described to be the World’s First Green Library for Kids and included the voice of Willow Chance:

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As an educator who specializes in gifted and talented education, I know boys and girls like Willow Chance, and my spirit is drawn to them. My Poetry Offering for you all this week though is this quote again from the book, when a random stranger asks Willow where her parents are and she answered with poetry. I took a photo of the page and edited it using an iPhone app:

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And so I searched for the entire poem so that I can share it with you today dear friends. Find Counting by 7s. It will make you look at the familiar with strange eyes.

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Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan. Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an Imprint of Penguin Group, 2013. Book borrowed from the public library.

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Reading Challenge Update: 81 (25)

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9 Comments on [Poetry Friday] The Poetry of Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

  1. I LOVED this book – but your post just makes me love it all the more, Myra. So much of the unusual power of this book lies in the language – those turns of phrase that keep you coming back to re-read, savor and decipher. Love the way you brought the pages to life with artwork, too. What a wonderful post!

  2. So many concepts to contemplate in your post — 7 people who matter, Dell Duke’s Groups of the Strange, unsuspected worlds opening. Many powerful writers at work here! Thanks, Myra!

  3. Just put this on my to-read book–love your description of it, and the snippets that you’ve shared.

  4. What powerful poetry in that book! Thanks for taking the time to tell the story, prepare and share pages from the book, and find the source poem. Much to think about here.

  5. It is one of my favorites so far this year, and I’ll be recommending it for a long time, Myra. It’s a marvelous review, and I’m so happy you read it with a group, too. Thanks for reminding me of the book’s beauty!

  6. maryleehahn // May 3, 2014 at 6:29 pm // Reply

    Okay. Now I’m getting a sense of all I missed by LISTENING to this book rather than reading it. Obviously, it is one to savor, and in listening, I had to go along at the pace of the reader. (I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t even know it was written in verse!) Clearly one I should re-read so I can reevaluate my opinion. Thank you! And also for the WCW poem in its entirety.

  7. I think I need to read this book. :)

    • ERIK! You definitely MUST read this book soon. Let me know what you think of it once you’re done. It can be quite sad but just keep reading, there are snapshots of laugh-out-loud humor where you least expect it.

  8. Thank you, Myra. This book sounds amazing… your review of it certainly was! I can’t wait to read it, and I’m sure my daughter will love it as well.

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