Misfit Lit: Counting by 7s

posted by Beret.

Age Range: Grades 5-8.

I’ve always had a soft spot for what I call “misfit lit.” Into this category I throw a few of the best books for young people I’ve read in the recent past: Loser, by Jerry Spinneli; Wonder, by R.J. Palacio; and A Mango-Shaped Space, by Wendy Mass. A major appeal of these books is that everyone feels like an alien at some point in their lives–often and particularly in middle school. Delving into the brain of an outsider and seeing how they experience and cope with difference can be both comforting and empowering. It could also encourage young people to look for what they might have in common with others, no matter how different they appear to be.

Counting by 7s is no exception. What is unique is that we spend a good deal of the book inside the head of Willow Chance–a girl with incredible intellectual gifts and a penchant for botany, medical texts, and the number seven. The author, Holly Goldberg Sloan, does not water down Willow’s vocabulary or personality in any way to make her character easier to swallow. In fact, it isn’t important for the reader to understand everything the main protagonist says or does throughout the novel in order to grasp her emotional turmoil and her desperate need to cope and connect. Continue reading

On Loss, Grief, Cats, and Picture Books

posted by Gina

Stella Cat turned 16 in August.  We brought her home from the pound when I was just a few months out of college, so small she slept in her food dish.  She’s seen me through love, loss, divorce, uncertainty, joy, and a cross-country move.  She is the love of my life.  She is not doing very well this week.

The vet is cautiously optimistic, but I know that even if she comes home this time, I’m facing the reality of losing her in the fairly near future.

Stella Cat, studiously ignoring the paparazzi.

In many ways, for many of us, these loves are more personal, more profound, than any other relationships we have.  For those without a pet, there are no words to explain this strangely deep and meaningful connection.  The logical triviality of it (“it’s just a pet!”) doesn’t measure up to this kind of grief.    Continue reading