Counting by 7s - Chapters 49 - 52 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 1,171 words
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In Chapter 49, Dell winds up having to run the Rototiller by himself but when he is finished, Willow finds the soil has perfect acidity. Willow tries to describe soil acidity in terms of sour and sweet. When Dell asks her if she tasted the soil, Quang-ha laughs but then makes a comment about hydrogen ions that surprises both he and Willow. Mai reminds Willow that her favorite number is 7, the same number assigned to perfect acidity.

Willow looks forward to the planting the following day but when they wake, a Santa Ann wind has blown the freshly tilled dirt all over the ground floor apartments. Dell tears down his building rep sign and wraps himself in a blanket. Mai, however, puts up a sign apologizing for the mess. She gets her mother to take her and Willow to the rental store where they return the Rototiller and rent a power sprayer.

The sprayer looks like a machine gun so Quang-ha is interested in trying it. The grime, along with the stucco coating on the apartments, comes off with the spray. They decide they need to pressure wash the whole building to make it match as there is a soft, natural grey under the stucco.

In Chapter 50, while they’re working on the building, Jairo pulls up in his cab. His backseat is full of towels and three window squeegees. He takes charge of the windows. As it gets later, Dell settles in on one of his lawn chairs. Willow admires the stars as she takes turns aiming a flashlight and directing the water flow. Quang-ha has laughed more that she’s heard him laugh in the months she been with the family. Suddenly, she realizes she is laughing too.

It’s after three in the morning before the project is finally finished. Along with the dirt, the cracks and bare spots in the stucco are all gone from the building. Willow thinks the building now looks futuristic and forward thinking instead of just ugly. After all the work, they all find it hard to move their arms. It’s time to plant the sunflowers but they will only temporarily fill the area, Willow knows. She compares her temporary situation to that of her sunflowers. She taking root, but it isn’t permanent. She has a court hearing in five weeks.

In Chapter 51, Dell tries to park his car in a too tight spot and winds up taking out a chain link fence, then denting the door of the school van. As he makes his way through the parking lot, a furry mass runs between his legs and he screams. It is Cheddar. Dell recognizes the thin, battle worn cat is frantic and terrified. Dell realizes the cat is in this predicament because of his actions. He decides to take responsibility. He puts the cat, which has begun to purr, in his car and takes him to a vet for a check up and flea bath. Back at school he takes responsibility for the damage to the fence and the van. Because the school district has insurance, he is told not to worry about the damage.

In Chapter 52, Willow is happy that Cheddar is back. Because Sadhu is allergic, Cheddar stays with her. The two become fast friends. Willow buys him a breakaway collar with his name and a bell on it. She also has Pattie’s phone number on the collar for emergencies, but the cat seems content to never go outside again.

In her sessions with Dell, they talk about practical things. First, they talk about the search for a legal guardian. They also talk about a permanent fix for the garden. Willow has begun collecting clipping from around the neighborhood in hopes of getting a garden started from those. During a trip to Southside Nursery, Willow sees the nursery owner, Harry E. Pollack. She has done favors for him in the past, giving him grafting and fungus advice. She learns he’s asked Dell how she’s doing.

Meanwhile, Willow tells the others she plans to start taking clipping from interesting plants. When Quang-ha asks if that would be considered stealing she explains it wouldn’t be if the plants are overhanging a public sidewalk. Quang-ha suggests she just take clippings out of people’s green recycling bins.


Balance is a significant idea in this section of the novel. After Dell is finished tilling the soil, Willow checks the acidity. Although those who had first looked at it considered it useless, Willow notes it is at the perfect acidity for growing plants. This balance of not too acidic and not too alkaline is necessary for good plant growth. Similarly, people need a balance in their lives in order to grow and develop properly.

Meanwhile, Dell, Willow and the Nguyens continue bonding through the garden project. Quang-ha laughs more than Willow has heard him laugh in the time she’s been around him. He even surprises himself and Willow by making an intelligent comment on Willow’s assessment of the soil.

Note that Dell is making strides in his growth as a responsible adult. He learns in this section that taking responsibility for one’s actions doesn’t always lead to punishment. For instance, when he confesses to tearing up a fence and denting a van with his car, he’s told not to worry about the damage. When he stumbles upon Cheddar and decides to take charge of him, he finds a new friend for Willow. Amusing is the author’s comment that Cheddar seems content to never set his feet on anything but carpet again.

Along the idea that Willow’s garden in the apartment complex and her own life are running parallel to one another, Willow realizes that even after they get the sunflowers in the ground, it is only a temporary fix. Temporary being the word Pattie has used so often to describe their life with Willow. Willow realizes she has a court hearing coming up in about five weeks where social services will try to place her in a permanent home. Similarly, the sunflowers will only last about five weeks before they will have to be replaced by something more permanent. As Willow says in Chapter 50, “The garden is challenging me, as always, to see my own situation.” In a metaphor, Willow calls herself a sunflower as she is becoming attached to the people and place she is at in the present, just as the sunflowers they have cultivated are attaching themselves to the ground.

Discussion Question 1

Consider Willow’s idea that Quang-ha is headed for a position in management. Do you think he’s management material? Why or why not?

Discussion Question 2

How is Willow’s situation like that of the sunflowers?

Discussion Question 3

Discuss Dell’s steps toward responsibility in this section of the novel. Are you impressed with the decisions he’s making? Why or why not?


pulverized, stamina, futuristic, florets, spectacle, hypothetical

This section contains 1,171 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
Counting by 7s from BookRags. (c)2016 BookRags, Inc. All rights reserved.
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