Counting by 7s - Chapters 9 - 12 Summary & Analysis

Holly Goldberg Sloan
This Study Guide consists of approximately 71 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Counting by 7s.
This section contains 1,217 words
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In Chapter 9, Mai’s older brother, Quang-ha was a troublemaker but Mai was not. Mai accompanied her brother to his counseling sessions, then they would walk to Happy Polish Nails, the salon their mother owned. Their mother had been outcast by her Vietnamese family because she was the child of a black American soldier. She was given a chance in America as a teenager where she went to live in California. She changed her name from her Vietnamese name, which was Dung to Pattie. She had two children with a Mexican who left them, claiming to go visit a sick brother but never coming back.

Instead of giving Quang-ha a real session, Dell had assigned him to complete three pages of a geometric coloring book, and then left, claiming he was going for a soda. He returned instead with a pet carrier after Willow had already arrived for her session. He was angry because Quang-ha hadn’t left when he was told to. When he yelled at Quang-ha, Mai responded, calling Dell out for not having a real counseling session with her brother and for being late to Willow’s appointment.

In Chapter 10, Willow was impressed with Mai’s outburst, but Dell chose not to respond. In order to change the subject, he opened the pet carrier and introduced his pet cat, Cheddar. Willow believed this was Dell’s attempt to bond with her. All those in the office were surprised when Cheddar ran out of the office into the parking lot. They searched the parking lot but weren’t able to find the cat. The kids made lost cat posters hoping someone would return Cheddar. Willow was surprised that Mai and Quang-ha accepted her input into the project even though she wasn’t trying to act any differently than she usually did. At home later that day, Willow decided to learn all she could about lost cats and the Vietnamese culture.

In Chapter 11, when Dell and the students arrived at Willow’s house, Mai was intrigued by the garden she was able to get glimpses of behind the house. She wondered if Willow’s parents owned a plant nursery. Dell dropped off Quang-ha and Mai, then headed for home, past the school district offices. He saw Cheddar, but didn’t even stop. He had responded to a lost cat ad in the paper, but in reality, Cheddar wasn’t even his. Dell was most troubled by the picture of Cheddar that Quang-ho had drawn as it is showed the boy had artistic talent. In Dell’s categorization system, the slot to which Dell has assigned Quang-ha indicated he should not have this talent.

Once inside his possession choked apartment, Dell heated a microwavable meatloaf and ate all three servings. He fell asleep on the patio furniture he used for living room furniture then later moved to the bedroom where he slept in a sleeping bag.

In Chapter 12, Willow ordered a taxi to pick her up for her next counseling session so she could get there more quickly and be more likely to meet up with Mai and Quang-ha. When she arrived at her destination she told the taxi driver to never let anyone tell him he couldn’t do something. Even though she was referring to her pride in her successful taxi ride, she suspected the taxi driver thought she was talking about him. At the counseling trailer, Willow greeted Mai in Vietnamese. Mai was impressed and in turn asked Willow about her garden. During her session, Dell asked Willow economics questions, a topic in which Willow tried to tell him she had very little interest. Pretty soon, she was telling him answers that were opposite of what she thought they should be. She was disappointed that Dell didn’t seem to notice.


As presented in these chapters, Dell seems even more despicable than he did in prior chapters. He’d picked up a cat he read about in a lost pet ad just to try to impress Willow by calling it his. When the cat ran off, Dell seemed completely unconcerned. When he drove back by the school and saw it sitting in the parking lot, he didn’t even stop to pick it up, just left it to fend for itself. He seems more troubled that Quang-ha doesn’t fit into the category of the strange to which he’d assigned the boy than he does by the cat he’d abandoned. Even Dell’s concern about his misplacement of Quang-ha seems not to be for Quang-ha’s sake but seems to throw Dell off kilter because he did not evaluate the boy correctly.

Two impressions are made when Willow, Mai and Quang-ha work together to make the missing cat fliers to help locate Cheddar. First, Dell noticed Quang-ha’s artistic ability. This ability disturbed him because as a lone wolf, Quang-ha shouldn’t have any artistic talent. Dell decided that because he discovered this ability in Quang-ha, he would have to put him in a different category. As much as Dell wanted to make his counseling job easy, he has learned that people don’t always fit easily into a rigid classification system. This discovery by Dell adds to the theme of categorization in the novel.

The second impression is made by Willow. She has been intrigued by Mai’s strong personality and Native American looks from the start and would like to be friends with the older girl. Although Willow doesn’t make any attempt to alter her behavior, but just acts like herself, Mai and Quang-ha accept her into their work group. Willow indicated it was the first time she felt human.

In these chapters, the verbiage remains in the past tense. The author is using these chapters to tell the stories and develop the personalities of the main characters in the book. The characters of special interest include Willow, Dell, Mai and Pattie. Notice Mai’s self-confidence and her ability to stand up for herself. She stands up for what she believes is right, especially when it comes to someone close to her, like her brother. While Willow believed Mai might have been Native American, it turned out she was actually a mix of Mexican, Vietnamese and black. Mai’s mother, Pattie, is well acquainted with grief and hardship as she was outcast by her parents because she was a mixed race baby. Once given a chance in America, however, Pattie has done well for herself, it appeared, as she owned her own business. However, Pattie was left to manage her business and raise her children on her own when their father abandoned them when the children were still small.

Discussion Question 1

What is your opinion of Dell? How does his treatment of the cat affect your opinion of him? What about the condition of his home?

Discussion Question 2

Why do you think the author gives background on Mai and Quang-ha’s mother? How does this affect your opinion of the children?

Discussion Question 3

Mai and Willow seem to share a common interest in each other. Which of Mai’s qualities attracted Willow? What attracted Mai to Willow?


geometric, fixated, obliterated, sauntered, provocation, incentive, motivator, intriguing, surly, inflection, conjugation, botanical, colossal

This section contains 1,217 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
Counting by 7s from BookRags. (c)2016 BookRags, Inc. All rights reserved.
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