It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!
Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Counting by 7s is an extraordinary book, as review after review promised it would be. Like Navigating Early, Wonder, and Mockingbird, it belongs to that tradition of books devoted to unusual characters whose very differences enrich our perspectives and teach us about ourselves. The story begins when 12 year old Willow Chance loses both her parents in a terrible accident. Willow is no ordinary 12 year old and hers was not an ordinary family, as she herself notes:
“I am an only child.
And I’m different.
As in strange.
But I know it and that takes the edge off. At least for me.”
What makes Willow different, is that she is a genius with the ability to be interested in everything, and the brain power to figure out almost anything. Anything, that is except terrible loss – as in losing both her parents on the very same day. Willow is left alone in the world, save for five random people, unrelated and unlike her in every possible way: her school counselor, two high school students who share this counselor, their mother, and a taxi cab driver. Their stories weave together to form a story that is funny, poignant, and wise. What keeps these characters moving along in the narrative is this:
One thing leads to another.
Often in unexpected ways.”
I loved the way Sloan changed perspectives in this book, and allowed the reader insight into every character. And each of these characters was richly realized – I felt I knew and cared deeply about all of them. As Willow says at one point in the story, ” it has been my experience that rewarding and heartbreaking often go hand in hand.” That is true for Counting by 7s as well. I know my sixth graders will find it a powerful read, one that will spark meaningful reflections and book talk discussions.
While searching for investigation centers materials for our Social Studies classes, I was so glad to come upon a copy of Kay Winters’ Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak in our local library. It is December 16, 1773, and trouble is brewing in Boston. King George has declared a new tax on tea and the colonists have had enough. What will happen next?
We begin with Ethan, a printer’s errand boy, and follow his path of meeting a wide variety of Bostonians, from clock makers to inn keepers, who each share their take on the events of the day, and the prevailing sentiments of the time. Each perspective takes the form of a poem, beautifully illustrated by Larry Day. My thought is to use this text at a center and have my students’ inquiry focus on reading these perspectives and coming to an understanding of how divided priorities and loyalties were in an America on the verge of revolution.