Holly Goldberg Sloan Writing Styles in Counting by 7s

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 980 words
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Point of View

This novel is told from a variety of points of view. The main point of view is that of Willow, the main character of the story. Other chapters are written from the third person point of view from the viewpoint of other significant characters in the novel. Of the book’s 61 chapters, 37 are told from the first person point of view of Willow. The remainder of the book’s 24 chapters are written in the voice of a third person narrator from the view point of Dell, Mai or Pattie. One chapter is told from the viewpoint of Jimmy and Roberta Chance, Willow’s adoptive parents.

The varying points of view in this story are important because they fill out the holes in information that Willow can not provide. While the intent of the story is to follow Willow as she deals with the grief from her parents’ death, it also follows the lives and the changes in the lives of those with whom she interacts. If the story were told from a third person point of view in its entirety, the reader would not feel the personal connection to Willow. However, if the story were told in a first person point of view in its entirety, the thoughts, feelings, emotions and intentions of those who come to know Willow would not known by the reader, and the metamorphosis that takes place in their lives would not be as significant. In order for the author to tell the story of Willow and how her story affects those around her fully, the varying points of view work well.

Language and Meaning

From Willow’s high intelligence to Dell’s bumbling, the personalities of the individual characters are captured in their speech by the author of “Counting by 7s.” Dell’s personality is characterized by his fear that he might be called upon to take responsibility for something. This fear is captured in the first quote from his mouth when he tries to talk to the police who have come to tell Willow her parents are dead. He stutters and stammers through his explanation in Chapter One that, “I see two of these k-k-kids for counseling. I’m just d-d-driving them home.”

Notice there are several times in the novel where the author uses different type to emphasize her points. For instance, in Chapter One, when Willow first overhears that her parents are dead, the word “no” is repeated each time. Each word is its own sentence on its own line. The type gets larger and bolder with each “no” as if a person, in this case Willow, were actually saying it a little louder and a little stronger each time.

Later in the novel, in Chapter 57, the author plays with the letters of the word “anymore” spelling them out so the word runs diagonally, horizontally and vertically from a common beginning letter “a.” This word play takes place at a point in the novel where Willow has just realized she is no longer afraid of what the future might hold for her. The author’s act of playing with the letters of the word “anymore” seem to highlight the idea that Willow is so relaxed that she’s allowing her mind to play with words again.

Willow’s speech is characterized by her high level of intelligence. She calls plants by their scientific names, knows the proper medical terms for diseases and part of the body and even throws in an example of a literary technique every here and there. For instance, she comments on her belief that the word “fetus” is onomatopoetic. Onomatopoeia is a word that sounds like the thing that it describes. In introducing the neighbor who tells Dell and Willow nothing will grow in the courtyard, Willow notes that his name, Otto Sayas, is a palindrome. A palindrome is a word that is spelled the same forward and backward.


This book is divided into 61 chapters. Some chapters are as short as three pages while the longest are 12 pages. Each chapter is titled with its corresponding numeral but some get extra attention. In those in which major characters are introduced, such as in Chapter 1, their name is printed below the chapter number. Interestingly, even though these are titles and often people’s names, the author chooses to present the names in lowercase letters instead of capitalizing the first letters of each word which generally expected not only in a person’s name but also in a title. These name titles are followed by a short sentence that sums up the personality of the person being introduced or describes his role in the novel. Chapters 1, 5, 9, 13, 15 and 19 are the only chapters that have these special titles.

While the majority of the book is linear, there is one brief section in which the author goes back in time. It is in Chapter 2, which has a label title indicating that the action of the novel is going back two months in time prior to the first chapter, that the flashback begins. While Chapter 1 was written in the present tense, the author switches to the past tense in Chapter 2. This past tense continues until Chapter 17 where Willow’s story catches up to present time. Chapter 17 had a label title of “back in the now.” It is with Chapter 17 that the tense switches back to present tense.

This book is written for children and helps give insight into the grieving process as well as the process of returning to life after a great loss. The major plot of the novel follows Willow and her grieving process as well as the development of this band of misfits that gathers around her to provide her with a new family. Subplots include the changes that take place in each character’s life as they interact with Willow and try to help her.

This section contains 980 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
Counting by 7s from BookRags. (c)2017 BookRags, Inc. All rights reserved.
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