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Counting by 7s
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message 1: by Jemima (last edited Jul 23, 2017 11:52AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jemima Pett | 1033 comments Mod
The order in which we ranked the seven books was:

1= Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH 24.5%
1= Counting by 7s 24.5%
3 Fever 1793 20.4%
4= The Teacher's Funeral : A Comedy in Three Parts 8.2%
4= Diary of a Wimpy Kid 8.2%
4= The Wednesday Wars 8.2%
7 Umbrella Summer 6.1%

You can read them over July and August in any order you choose - but please put your comments in the correct thread!

This thread is for COUNTING BY 7s

I hope you enjoy it. I've ordered it from the library and it's ready for me to pick up!

Note: I noticed today that we've had Fever 1793 as BOTM before - but nobody noticed, so never mind!


Jemima Pett | 1033 comments Mod
Well, I picked it up at the library today, and started reading it while watching the tennis at Wimbledon on tv. And apart from a few brief interludes for garden and home activities, I couldn't put it down.

I loved Willow's take on life, and her growth through this bizarre experience, even though I didn't take to her at first. The three kids involved are full of good and irritating qualities, which makes them very easy to relate to, even at my age. Willow's take on authority is worth consideration, if you're clever enough!

I thought the ending was flagged up way in advance, but I suspect the age group reader will merely hope for it, rather than expect it. A lovely read, and I'll look for others by this author. I even read the three 'reading questions' she put in the back, which gave a lot of extra insight.


message 3: by Ellie (new)

Ellie I read this a couple years ago for the Rebecca Caudill list. Might have to skim through it again to join in on the thread!


Georgie | 35 comments "(Quang-ha) understands labour in a different way. If he's not interested in something, he will do anything to get out of doing it. I mean it when I say to him, 'Quang-ha, you may very well have a future career in management."

One of the several observations from Willow that made me laugh out loud :)


Georgie | 35 comments Love your review. Jemima.

I've been meaning to read this one for a while. so was very glad to have an excuse/push to read it. I really liked Willow, though I agree that she took a little getting used to.
I was soon caught up in Willow's world and the impact she had, often without meaning to, on the other characters' lives. I thought it was interesting that it was ultimately through her parents' deaths and how she comes through the shock and grief that eventually lead her to having the kind of life they wished for her to have. Their deaths literally picked poor Willow up and threw her out of her comfort zone, and it was through the relationships she developed with Mai, Patti, Quang-ha, Dell, and Jairo that she learnt how to really make friends, to love people other than her parents and to *understand* people rather than just observe them as she does her plants. I liked how the love between Willow and her parents shone through the book.
Willow's observations on the world around her were a wonderful mix of surprisingly adult, just plain odd, and charmingly childlike (for example she understands all sorts of complex science and legal stuff but completely misses (view spoiler)
I was pleasantly surprised by how well-drawn and present the adult characters are in this book - particularly Patti, Dell, and Jairo, and how we got chapters from their perspective as well. It's fairly common for adults to be either absent or unreliable at best in MG fiction, if not in the role of bad guys (they can still be great characters, but we don't often hear their voices). I think that's a brave and complex perspective to include in an MG book, and I hope it will get MG-age readers to think about the adults in their own lives.
I particularly liked the characterization of Dell, because in the hands of a lesser author, he would likely have remained a bumbling, inept, lazy type who was a barrier to the main character's journey. Indeed, that's how he starts out, until Willow, Patti, Mai and Quang-ha kind of deposit themselves smack-bang in the middle of his life. He was really well-developed for a secondary (and an adult) character, and I think after Willow, he's probably the one who changes most. I kind of didn't like him sometimes and often thought 'what an idiot!' but Willow's incredibly sharp observation that "Dell Duke is not a bad person. He is just bad at *being* a person" really made me reconsider. I think that's one reason why almost from their first meeting and their initial mutual doubts about each other, Willow and Dell have a connection. Willow's not terribly good at 'being a person' all the time either, and especially not at being a *kid* (even before her parents' deaths). I like how Dell learns to be a better, more responsible adult and how Willow both grows up a bit but also learns how to be a kid - not worrying about germs all the time, wearing bright pink running shoes, and most important, letting herself depend on adults when she needs to.

Five stars from me for this one. I have one quibble, and this is with the publisher/editor rather than the author. In my edition of the book, published by Piccadilly, some of the words have been 'converted' into 'British'. So instead of 'Mom' we get 'Mum', instead of 'elementary school' we get 'junior school', instead of 'potato chips' we get 'crisps' and instead of 'trash/garbage' we get 'rubbish'. I checked out the first few pages of a US edition published by Dial on Amazon.com via the preview bit, and sure enough, where it says 'Mum' in my edition, it says 'Mom' in that one. While I can kind of see what the motive might be in this, it's a bit insulting. Did someone think British readers wouldn't be able to work out what 'Mom', 'elementary school', 'potato chips' and 'trash/garbage' are? Really? We have The Simpsons. We have endless American shows for adults, teens, and kids. Kids read American books all the time. When I was middle-grade age, I was reading Goosebumps and watching The Simpsons and Are You Afraid of the Dark, and I never once had trouble with 'American' terms. And even stuff that is a little confusing to me as Brit (the school grading system, the names of certain foods which have different names here, like 'bologna' (I *think* we call it mortadella here?)) but I can still enjoy the books. Likewise, as an MG age kid reading Judy Blume, I might not have been 100% sure what age exactly 'fourth grade' kids would be but I could still relate to them and enjoy the book.
Do some American editors/publishers do this with books set in England?
I just found it slightly grating, enough to disrupt the flow of my reading.


SaraKat | 47 comments Georgie wrote: "Love your review. Jemima.

I've been meaning to read this one for a while. so was very glad to have an excuse/push to read it. I really liked Willow, though I agree that she took a little getting u..."


What an insightful set of points you've made. I agree with them all. I was all set to hate Dell, but he did change and grow through the book. I thought it was interesting how you compared him and Willow. I teach science to middle school students so I was initially attracted to the book because of her love of observing the natural world, but it has so much more to offer!


Jemima Pett | 1033 comments Mod
Georgie asks "Do some American editors/publishers do this with books set in England?"
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. 'Nuff said!


Sophie | 6 comments I listened to this book on audio and enjoyed it. I had a couple of problems but loved Willow and the take on labels and catergorising people. The way grief was written was heart-breaking, tender and powerful and there were a couple of lines that really stood out to me:

"I know for a fact that’s not safe and then my thoughts shift. It might be a good thing if the garage caught on fire, if I were alone in here, because if I got trapped in a blaze started by arcing electrical overload in the wall of the garage, the searing pain of losing my mum and dad would go up in smoke with me."

&

"Dysphagia is the medical term for not being able to swallow and I know that there are two kinds of dysphagia; Oropharyngeal and Esophageal, but maybe there is also a third kind of dysphagia that comes when your heart breaks into pieces. I can’t swallow because I have that kind."

I didn’t like that Dell’s labelling of children (genius, lone-wolf, weirdo, dictator etc.) was never really questioned apart from saying that he wants to understand the world, and giving him sympathy. I loved that this book didn’t portray anyone as ‘evil’, it makes it that bit more realistic however some of the things Dell did were problematic and I feel they should have been challenged. Also there were a few plot devices that I think take away from the hopeful, relatable aspects of the book. How many children reading this are going to have any sort of instant solutions to their problems like (view spoiler)? Also the major plot hole with (view spoiler)

Georgie wrote: "I kind of didn't like him sometimes and often thought 'what an idiot!' but Willow's incredibly sharp observation that "Dell Duke is not a bad person. He is just bad at *being* a person" really made me reconsider."

I loved this bit! Willow is a smart kid.


Cindy Wise | 32 comments I had a hard time putting this down once I opened it. It's funny and sad and cuts right into your heart. The circumstances seem so dire for all of them, but they all find their own way to hope. So many brilliant statements about life. I loved it!


Justine Laismith (JustineLaismith) | 171 comments This book had to grow on me. I wasn't drawn to Willow at the start as I have read this type of character (Aspergers?) in some previous books eg The Thing about Jellyfish. For me she was not original enough and she was too intelligent, spewing facts left, right and centre, yet lacking the ability to find the line between danger and being obsessive. But I like Geogie's take on things - that she learns to be a kid. My favourite character is Dell, because I can see him growing in the story. And I agree that Quang-ha is brilliant. Mai is also well characterised. Having Vietnamese characters is refreshing.
There is something I don't get. Maybe I missed it as I do have a tendency to skim, but if Pattie is so rich that she could but the entire apt block, why were they living in the back garage in the first place?


Cindy Wise | 32 comments I really loved this book. It was a nice mix of really conflicted confused characters, who were clearly struggling in their respective lives. Being thrust together, they figured out how to work together and came out better for it. If these guys can figure out how to push forward and make it through a really bad situation....anyone can.

You don't have to be a superhero or some sort of rock star to make a good life for yourself. All you need is to shake things up a little and not be afraid to work at it a little.

Not sure why Patty was a penny pincher...


message 12: by Rebecca (new) - added it

Rebecca Douglass (RDouglass) | 1495 comments Mod
Jemima wrote: "Georgie asks "Do some American editors/publishers do this with books set in England?"
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. 'Nuff said!"


Yup. One of my pet peeves is the "translation" of British books into American. LIke US kids are too dump to figure out that a torch is a flashlight, etc. :)


message 13: by Rebecca (new) - added it

Rebecca Douglass (RDouglass) | 1495 comments Mod
Crap. Just hit the wrong button and deleted a long comment I was working on. Grr.

if Pattie is so rich that she could but the entire apt block, why were they living in the back garage in the first place
I think I can shed some light on this. The author talks about it in an interview in the back of the edition I read, and says that though it's something people question, it was actually drawn from a real person. I've heard of this sort of thing before, and I think it has to do with being an immigrant from a very poor country. First, the garage doesn't seem like poverty to her, because heck, she grew up with a lot less. And then there is the fear that her efforts to earn and save enough money to give her children a start will fall short, so she saves like crazy.

Finally, I think that if you have lived much of your life with no money, scrimping and saving and never spending a cent that you don't have to, because you don't have it to spend, it warps you a bit. It takes a conscious effort to learn to spend money when you do have it, and not to fret over every penny. So I guess I kind of understand Patty.

As for Jairo and the money he wins, I had already begun to see an almost magical aspect to the book, and the ways in which Willow has affected people without knowing it. I honestly don't think it was meant to feel realistic, just to serve as a metaphor for the change in "luck" that comes of taking control of one's life.

Oddly, for Willow, the key is learning to take less control of her life :)

Finally, I want to note that I though that the description of Willow's grief was amazing. I felt it with her, and it left me feeling like it was hard to breathe on account of this darkness and weight that had settled over her/me. Maybe I was just extra-vulnerable that day, but I was impressed.


Sophie | 6 comments Rebecca wrote: "I think it has to do with being an immigrant from a very poor country. First, the garage doesn't seem like poverty to her, because heck, she grew up with a lot less. And then there is..."

Wow, that all makes a lot of sense Rebecca, thanks for sharing!


Georgie | 35 comments Rebecca wrote:
Jemima wrote: "Georgie asks "Do some American editors/publishers do this with books set in England?"
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. 'Nuff said!"

Yup. One of my pet peeves is the "translation" of British books into American. LIke US kids are too dump to figure out that a torch is a flashlight, etc. :)


I know! I just don't get why they do it. Can they really think that American/English kids are too dumb to work things like that out? And as for the whole Harry Potter thing....*rolls eyes*

if Pattie is so rich that she could but the entire apt block, why were they living in the back garage in the first place
I think I can shed some light on this. The author talks about it in an interview in the back of the edition I read, and says that though it's something people question, it was actually drawn from a real person. I've heard of this sort of thing before, and I think it has to do with being an immigrant from a very poor country. First, the garage doesn't seem like poverty to her, because heck, she grew up with a lot less. And then there is the fear that her efforts to earn and save enough money to give her children a start will fall short, so she saves like crazy.

Finally, I think that if you have lived much of your life with no money, scrimping and saving and never spending a cent that you don't have to, because you don't have it to spend, it warps you a bit. It takes a conscious effort to learn to spend money when you do have it, and not to fret over every penny. So I guess I kind of understand Patty.

Yeah that was my impression too. I think one of the most significant themes of the book was how Willow's presence in the other characters lives changes them and their outlook as much as they change hers. She gets people to see themselves and their lives in different ways. With Patty, I think it's only when Patty *has* to spend some of her hard-earned money in order to protect and keep Willow with her that she sees her 'old' life with new eyes and suddenly realizes that she wants to give herself and her kids more, and more importantly, that it's okay to do that. When she first moves them all out of the garage into Dell's place, it's not something she's doing for herself, it's something she's doing for Willow and her kids, and I think that makes her begin to see she can do more, for her family and herself, like changing the salon and dating. So by the end of the book, she's able to do something as dramatic as buying the whole apartment block because she finally feels it's 'safe' to spend that amount of money.

As for Jairo and the money he wins, I had already begun to see an almost magical aspect to the book, and the ways in which Willow has affected people without knowing it. I honestly don't think it was meant to feel realistic, just to serve as a metaphor for the change in "luck" that comes of taking control of one's life.
I thought that too. I think it's supposed to show that if you're brave enough to take one small step to change your life (Jairo going to the store to buy the textbooks even though he initially feels he doesn't belong there) can sometimes lead to the most surprising moments of pure luck.
I think the issue of people taking control of their lives is really important in this book. I love that although our middle-grade heroine, Willow, is the main character who has to learn to re-take control of her life (or perhaps, in her case, *release* her control of it and learn to just be a kid), the adults around her learn to do so too. And that leads back to Pattie and her money - rather than 'controlling' it by saving it and spending as little as possible as a means of protecting herself and her family (perfectly natural given her background) she learns she can use it to 'control' her life in different ways, by using it to help her family (including Willow), her community (the residents of the apartment block) and ultimately herself.


message 16: by Rebecca (new) - added it

Rebecca Douglass (RDouglass) | 1495 comments Mod
Great insights as usual, Georgie!


Jemima Pett | 1033 comments Mod
The other thing about Patti - she doesn't work on credit. That's something many adults and kids in western society find odd, but my parents never bought anything they couldn't buy outright except the house. Even the car had to be saved up for.

So when Patti's saving to buy a house, she won't buy one till she's got the money. And sometimes it takes a long time to feel secure enough to start spending when you've been saving all your life.


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