Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Counting by 7sCounting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Poignant story about a twelve-year-old genius whose adoptive parents are unexpectedly killed in a car crash, leaving her completely alone in the world. While that may have the possibility of being a heart-wrenching story, overall the tone is hopeful, and not as emotionally wrenching as it could have been.

My biggest criticism of the book relates to the ending, so I’ll hide it in the next paragraph. If you’re not opposed to being somewhat spoiled, highlight the text block:

The ending is probably too unrealistically happy, but it’s satisfying and considering the target age range for readers, I can’t really complain too much. There’s plenty of time for middle grade readers to get more realistic conclusions to novels, and the wrap-it-all-up-in-a-bow aspect of it did make me happy for Willow. And yes, I just admitted to feeling happy for a fictional character.

I loved Willow as a character – she’s delightfully odd. I loved Mai and Pattie and how they take charge of Willow, and get Dell to do what they need and want. There’s a few too many happy coincidences throughout the book, but I can forgive it because I liked the characters so much.

Heartwarming and uplifting, I really enjoyed it.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
In the tradition of Out of My Mind, Wonder, and Mockingbird, this is an intensely moving middle grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family.

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life… until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

Book Details

Title: Counting By 7s
Author: Holly Goldberg Sloan
Category: Middle Grade Fiction
My Rating: 4 Stars

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: 12 Sports Books to Read if You Liked “The Boys in the Boat”

50 Picture Books about Australia

On Monday I shared the books we’ll “officially” be reading as part of our Family Book Club. But perhaps your library doesn’t have Mem Fox’s Possum Magic, or perhaps you just want one or two dozen others to read because your kids are like mine and can’t get enough picture books. In that case, I’ve compiled a list of 50 possibilities for you.

50 Australia picture books

Headed to the library? I’ve got a printable for that.

If you want to look for any of these titles at your library, here’s a PDF printable of all 50 books.

And some others, which I didn’t have the chance to preview:

Still Want More?

Despite including several titles by Mem Fox already in this list, she’s got plenty more – not all of them very Australia-heavy on their content, but every one of hers I’ve read has been worthwhile. My kids are particularly partial to Where Is the Green Sheep?

In addition, Bronwyn Bancroft has many additional picture book titles besides the three listed in this post, and all are very Australia-focused.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

Shadow Spinner (and a link-up)

Shadow SpinnerMay kicks off a new theme for our family book club – Iran – and the first book is Shadow Spinner, a retelling of the Shahrazad story by Susan Fletcher.

Once again, it’s not one that I read to my kids (they’re too young for it), but I reread it to be able to participate in the discussion in the Facebook group. Although I didn’t actually participate in the discussion at all, as most of it took place when I was on vacation and not spending time on Facebook. 🙂

Jessica (Quirky Bookworm) shared in the Facebook group that there is a new retelling of Shahrazad’s story, called The Wrath and the Dawn, and I’ve already requested it from the library. I did like how Fletcher made me think about what it would really have been like in that situation for everyone, and am curious to read Ahdieh’s interpretation.

If you read Shadow Spinner, either for yourself, or with your family, what did you think of it? Were you familiar with Shahrazad’s story, and did that impact your feelings about this reinterpretation?

If you’ve written a post about the book (or other books related to Iran). Any posts linked here will show up on the joint linkup, hosted by Katie (Cakes, Tea and Dreams) and Jessica (Quirky Bookworm). Add your post once from any one of our sites, and it will automatically appear in the linkup on their blogs.


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Link-up Guidelines:

1. Share a post about reading this book or one of the themed picture books. Entries completely unrelated to this theme or linked to your homepage may be deleted.

2. Link back to one of the host’s posts.

3. The linkup will be open until the end of the month.

4. Please visit the person’s blog who linked up directly before you and leave them a comment.

5. By linking up, you’re granting us permission to use and/or repost photographs or comments from your linked post.

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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Recent Readaloud: Owls in the Family

Owls in the FamilyOwls in the Family by Farley Mowat

One of G’s school books, and I’ve heard about this title before, but had never read it. I’m so glad it was included in the curriculum, because it was such a enjoyable read, and worked really well as a readaloud!

Listeners who are sensitive may be troubled by some scenes, and it is a bit dated (it was published originally in 1961), but my 4 & 6 year olds had no trouble with it.

My verdict:

Charming story about a boy who has two owls as pets. I was sad to reach the end of it, and have looked for additional titles by Mowat.

The kids’ verdict:
They both really enjoyed it. I think both kids were intrigued (and a bit jealous) of the freedom the boys in the story had.

Publisher’s Description:
Farley Mowat’s funniest book tells the adventures of Wol and Weeps, two owls from Saskatchewan who shape up a whole neighbourhood, turn a house topsy-turvy, and outsmart Mutt, the dog hero of The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be. Wol brings dead skunks to the family dinner table and terrorizes the minister, the postman, and the French teacher. Weeps is a comical bird, afraid of everything except Mutt, and he never does learn how to fly. Here is the heartwarming story of how a boy named Billy finds Wol and Weeps and unwittingly adds two new members to the family.

Book Details

Title: Owls in the Family
Author: Farley Mowat
Category: Children’s Nonfiction
My Rating: 4 Stars

Find the book: Print | Goodreads

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: The Lady and the Panda

Reading about Iran

Interested in joining in with us for the Reading Together: A Family Exploration Book Club? Our theme for May and June is Iran, and you’ve still got time to find the books and join our new co-host Katie from Cakes, Tea, and Dreams for the discussion.

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What are the three books we’ve selected? The picture book is Forty Fortunes by Aaron Shepard, illustrated by Alisher Dianov. (Can’t find it? I’ll list some other suggestions below). The elementary grade book to be discussed in May is Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher, and the middle grade / teen book for June is Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

Want some additional picture book options?

If your kids are anything like mine, you can run through a half dozen picture books in a day, and they like nothing more than doing just that. In case you can’t easily locate Forty Fortunes, or if you just want more options, here are some more possibilities. Asterisks (*) mark ones I especially enjoyed, and the tilde (~) denotes one I haven’t actually seen, thanks to it vanishing off my library holds shelf before I could borrow it.

Chat about the books

We’d love to chat about the books with you in the Facebook group – tell us what you & your family think about the titles, or share additional ideas for books (or crafts, or food) that connect to the theme!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Savor by Shauna Niequist

When My Name Was Keoko (and a linkup)

When My Name Was KeokoApril continued with the theme of Korea for our family book club, and the book selection is a favorite of mine: When My Name Was KeokoWhen My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park, by Linda Sue Park.

Because of the ages of my children (my oldest is only 6), it’s not one I read aloud to them, but I do plan on either having them read it themselves eventually, or reading it to them when they’re older.

I’m reasonably well-read about World War II and that era, but I hadn’t realized that Korea was occupied by Japan before and during the war. Or at least if I’d heard it it hadn’t really sunk in at all. Park’s story brings that time period to life, and yet does so in a way that’s not too graphic for younger readers, although as always I’d recommend that you know your reader if you’re worried about suitability.

If you read When My Name Was KeokoWhen My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park, either for yourself, or with your family, what did you think of it? There’s also a blog linkup if you posted about the book (or theme), and any posts will automatically show up on the joint linkup, hosted by Moira (Hearth and Homefront) and Jessica (Quirky Bookworm). Add your post once from any one of our sites, and it will automatically appear in the linkup on their blogs.


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Link-up Guidelines:

1. Share a post about reading this book or one of the themed picture books. Entries completely unrelated to this theme or linked to your homepage may be deleted.

2. Link back to one of the host’s posts.

3. The linkup will be open until the end of the month.

4. Please visit the person’s blog who linked up directly before you and leave them a comment.

5. By linking up, you’re granting us permission to use and/or repost photographs or comments from your linked post.

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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

The Kite Fighters (and a linkup)

The Kite FightersMarch and April’s theme for our online family book club is Korea, and March’s book is Linda Sue Park’s wonderful novel The Kite FightersThe Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park.

I was not new to Park, but hadn’t read this particular title until pre-reading it for the book club. What a lovely story it was, and I learned quite a bit about historic Korean culture.

While I did not read this book with my kids (I think they’ll do better with it in another couple of years), I absolutely do plan to read it to them eventually. Although if we stick with Sonlight for our homeschool curriculum, it is scheduled in the year focused on the Eastern Hemisphere, so the kids would definitely read it then!


If you read The Kite FightersThe Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park, either for yourself, or with your family, what did you think of it? And if you wrote a post about it, please add it to our linkup! Any posts will automatically show up on the joint linkup, hosted by Moira (Hearth and Homefront) and Jessica (Quirky Bookworm). Add your post once from any one of our sites, and it will automatically appear in the linkup on their blogs.


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Link-up Guidelines:

1. Share a post about reading this book or one of the themed picture books. Entries completely unrelated to this theme or linked to your homepage may be deleted.

2. Link back to one of the host’s posts.

3. The linkup will be open until the end of the month.

4. Please visit the person’s blog who linked up directly before you and leave them a comment.

5. By linking up, you’re granting us permission to use and/or repost photographs or comments from your linked post.

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Next month we continue with Korea, and we’ll be discussing When My Name Was KeokoWhen My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park. I hope you can join us!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

A Single ShardA Single ShardA Single Shard by Linda Sue Park by Linda Sue Park

I read this when I was pre-reading/re-reading books for the family book club’s Korea theme. Ultimately I recommended we select When My Name Was Keoko as the middle grade/teen book, feeling that it gave a better balance to our pairing, but want to still encourage anyone interested in children’s literature or historical fiction to give this one a try – it’s fantastic.

Park’s writing is so beautiful, but the characterizations and themes of her novel are what make A Single Shard such a standout to me. While it’s not the right fit for me to read to my children (yet), I’m looking forward to introducing them to it when they’re older and able to appreciate the story.

And if you’re able to read the book and not feel an overwhelming urge to do some searching online for celadon pottery, you’ve got more restraint than I do. I had to go looking for some images of the pottery described in the book – such beautiful work!

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
In this Newbery Medal-winning book set in 12th century Korea, Tree-ear, a 13-year-old orphan, lives under a bridge in Ch’ulp’o, a potters’ village famed for delicate celadon ware. He has become fascinated with the potter’s craft; he wants nothing more than to watch master potter Min at work, and he dreams of making a pot of his own someday. When Min takes Tree-ear on as his helper, Tree-ear is elated — until he finds obstacles in his path: the backbreaking labor of digging and hauling clay, Min’s irascible temper, and his own ignorance. But Tree-ear is determined to prove himself — even if it means taking a long, solitary journey on foot to present Min’s work in the hope of a royal commission . . . even if it means arriving at the royal court with nothing to show but a single celadon shard.

Book Details

Title: A Single ShardA Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
Author: Linda Sue Park
Category: Juvenile Fiction
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

The Perils of Precocious Reading: Julie of the Wolves (& a linkup)

Julie of the WolvesToday is the linkup about Julie of the WolvesJulie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, February’s book for our Family Book Club.

As the post title tells you, I did not read Julie of the Wolves. Or, technically, I didn’t reread it. I tried, really I did. I got through the first part. But I found myself doing everything but reading in order to avoid this book, so as of 10:30 last night when I’m writing this, I’m conceding: it’s not happening.

See, I read the book years ago, when I was in early elementary school, and I am still traumatized by it. I was a precocious reader – well able to tackle the reading from an ability standpoint long before I could always handle the emotional or subject content of books.

And sometimes that mismatch ended up leading to negative experiences and associations, such as with Julie. I have no doubt it’s a worthwhile book for the right ages. I think I was in 2nd grade when I tackled it and that was undoubtedly not the right age.


Hopefully most of you do not have these traumatic associations with this month’s novel and were able to enjoy it.

If you’ve written a post about Julie of the Wolves, please add it to the linkup below. This is a joint linkup with the other hosts – Jessica (Quirky Bookworm) and Carrie (The Lion is a Bookworm – our guest host for the months in the Arctic). Add your post once from any one of our sites, and it will automatically appear in the linkup on their blogs. Yay technology!


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Link-up Guidelines:

1. Share a post about reading this book or one of the themed picture books. Entries completely unrelated to this theme or linked to your homepage may be deleted.

2. Link back to one of the host’s posts.

3. The linkup will be open until the end of the month.

4. Please visit the person’s blog who linked up directly before you and leave them a comment.

5. By linking up, you’re granting us permission to use and/or repost photographs or comments from your linked post.

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Next month we move on to Korea, and we’ll be discussing The Kite FightersThe Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park. The official picture book is The Firekeeper’s SonThe Firekeeper's Son by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Julie Downing, but if you can’t easily find it I shared several other possibilities here. I hope you can join us!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Nothing! This is the first leap day that’s occurred since the blog began in September 2012.

What the Kids are Reading (in February 2016)

Late in January I finally closed out my Usborne kickoff parties and cashed in on the free books I earned through them.

I got a TON of books, and we’ve been reading and reading them. Here are the board books I received – stay tuned for later posts about all the other books. It was an amazing shipment! So, yes, most of the books we read in February were either picture books about the Arctic or Korea, or our new books. Since I’ve already posted about those themed picture books, today’s post is all about the books we actually added to our bookshelf. So exciting!

Board Books and Activity Books

Busy Train bookBusy Train Book
I *thought* I was just getting this as a display book for home shows. Ha! My kids – all of them – LOVE this book. Who knew a train driving around in loops could be so amazingly entertaining?

My Wild Animal WorldMy Wild Animal World
Another huge hit here – my youngest is obsessed with opening the big book, and then removing the 9 individual books, flipping through them, and then putting them back in the big book. The other two love reading these with her too, so it’s a double win!

Slide and See Under the SeaSlide-and-See Under the Sea

And yet another huge hit with the toddler. She loves the textures, she loves the various interactive features – it’s fantastic. I’ve even caught the other two flipping through it, and both are eager to read it to her.

Little Red Penguin ShapesLittle Red Penguin Shapes

The toddler likes lifting the flaps on this one, but it doesn’t captivate her as much as some of their other choices. However, I like the smaller size on this, as it’s easy to keep in my purse and pull out when I need a little bit of distraction.

Pop-Up JunglePop-Up Jungle

Really pretty pop-ups, but it’s probably the least popular of all the board and interactive books I’ve gotten from Usborne, perhaps because it’s got all these tempting elements – the snapping crocodile jaws, the swinging monkey, the slithering snake – and I won’t let her grab any of them.

Peek Inside the ZooPeek Inside the Zoo

A great first lift the flap book, as the flaps are bigger than in some of their other titles. Pretty illustrations too – I really like it. That said, it just misses being one of the biggest hits of this order, but I can see my youngest liking it more as she gets a bit older. It’s suggested for kids 3 and up, and based on my experiences with my three, I’d agree with that. 🙂

Felix and Ella's VacationFelix & Ella’s Vacation

It’s a huge, reusable sticker book: of course my kids are obsessed with it. It was all I could do to keep them from tearing into it the first day it arrived. We haven’t had it long enough to really test the long-term re-usability factor of the stickers but so far they’re definitely movable.

Big Book of ColorsBig Book of Colors

My 4 year old LOVES this. The 6 year old really likes it too, but not as much as his sister. I have to admit I kind of wanted this one for myself – I love the colors, I love the color wheel, I love the acrylic overlay that lets you see how colors change. Love love love. It’s great for color vocabulary too.

I Want to Be a Lion TamerI Want to Be a Lion Tamer by Ruby Brown, illustrated by Alisa Coburn

Usborne has a handful of books that are great transitions from board books to picture books, and this is one of them – the pages are thicker and plastic-coated, so while they feel and turn more like picture books, they’re sturdier like board books. This has great illustrations with an old-fashioned feel, and the message is fantastic. I really debated between choosing this one or the I Want to Be An Astronaut, but like this one so much I may end up getting both. 🙂

Look Inside Mummies and PyramidsLook Inside Mummies and Pyramids

I got this as a fun extra for our upcoming homeschool history program, and cannot WAIT to pull it out and let my son see it. He’s going to love it, I’m certain.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: How I Decided to Homeschool and How I Decided on a Curriculum
Two years ago: Women Heroes of WWII
Three years ago: Let’s Talk about Spoilers

newest reads board books interactive books February 2016February 2016 Usborne board books