A New Middle Grade Pick: Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

In the midst of the drama of extreme loss of this year, my daughter managed to find this book at a school book fair, of all places, wedged in among sticker packs and novelty pencils and other weird tchotchkes:


It’s the story of an adopted middle schooler who returns home one day to learn that her parents have been killed in a car accident, and her ensuing struggle to exist in a physical and emotional landscape that has been altered beyond any recognition. Its true power lies in its portrayal of the internal mechanism of grief, not an easy place to describe with any conviction, let alone near perfection.

For Ada to have stumbled upon a book that provides solace on the heels of such great loss in her own life—the death of two grandparents and two family friends within five months, compounded by the estrangement of several other critical family members—calls to mind for me the power of books in my own younger life, when retreating into words penned by writers who seemed to understand precisely my predicament was what pulled me through days, weeks, years of unhappy childhood. To find a book that is just what you need at just the time you need it seems fair and apt to me: people can fail you and leave you, books do not. For every circumstance I manage to explain badly to her, or not at all, may she always find a book that can pick up my slack.

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