April 13, 2014

Counting by 7's by Holly Goldberg Sloan

An affinity for plants, the ability to diagnose any disease or illness, and an obsessive compulsive love of the number 7, constitutes most of Willow's day. Willow is not your average 12 year old. She has no friends, no social life. About to start middle school, Willow's parents decide to send her to a new school for a fresh start. When she gets a perfect score on a standardized test, she is accused of cheating and is sent to Dell, a district therapist. While Dell recognizes Willow's genius, he is unprofessional and inept, which Willow sees right through. At her therapy sessions she meets Young Quo, a troubled teen who must be accompanied by his younger sister, Hallie, to be sure he makes it to his sessions with Dell. Willow strikes a friendship with Hallie which makes her feel special as Hallie is a high school student. When Dell decides to take them for ice cream, and a ride home, the police are at Willow's house. Willow's parents have been killed in a tragic automobile accident. Young and Hallie immidately contact their mother to convince her to temporarily take in Willow so she can avoid foster care. The heartwarming story that follows tells of Willow's coping with loss and grief, dealing with her difficulty of letting people in, and of how the people around her find hope and direction from the intuition, and honesty that is all Willow.

This is one of those reads that stays with you long after the last word. If you are a teacher, or work with children, you know Willow. Gifted, autistic savant, whatever label the institution puts upon them, these kids are often ignored, and brushed aside by their peers as being "weird." In reality, they are complex people, who if you take the time to make a connection with them, can make a difference for both of you.

Reed Reads Score: 4.5

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