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The Seventh Most Important Thing

By: Shelley Pearsall
Imprint: Knopf Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780553497281
2015-09-08 - $16.99

Shelley Pearsall's story of anger and art, loss and redemption, is a transformative read that will appeal to fans of Lisa Graff's Lost in the Sun and Vince Vawter's Paperboy.

One kid. One crime. One chance to make things right.

It was a bitterly cold day when Arthur T. Owens grabbed a brick and hurled it at the trash picker. Arthur had his reasons, and the brick hit the Junk Man in the arm, not the head. But none of that matters to the judge—he is ready to send Arthur to juvie for the foreseeable future. Amazingly, it’s the Junk Man himself who offers an alternative: 120 hours of community service . . . working for him.
 
Arthur is given a rickety shopping cart and a list of the Seven Most Important Things: glass bottles, foil, cardboard, pieces of wood, lightbulbs, coffee cans, and mirrors. He can’t believe it—is he really supposed to rummage through people’s trash? But it isn’t long before Arthur realizes there’s more to the Junk Man than meets the eye, and the “trash” he’s collecting is being transformed into something more precious than anyone could imagine. . . .
 
Inspired by the work of American folk artist James Hampton, award-winning author Shelley Pearsall has crafted an affecting and redemptive novel about discovering what shines within us all, even when life seems full of darkness.

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Three Stars for The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall
September 01, 2015

Three Stars for The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall

★  “ Traumatized by his father’s recent death, a boy throws a brick at an old man who collects junk in his neighborhood and winds up on probation working for him.Pearsall bases the book on a famed real work of folk art, the Throne of the Third Heaven, by James Hampton, a janitor who built his work in a garage in Washington, D.C., from bits of light bulbs, foil, mirrors, wood, bottles, coffee cans, and cardboard—the titular seven most important things. In late 1963, 13-year-old Arthur finds himself looking for junk for Mr. Hampton, who needs help with his artistic masterpiece, begun during World War II. The book focuses on redemption rather than art, as Hampton forgives the fictional Arthur for his crime, getting the boy to participate in his work at first reluctantly, later with love. Arthur struggles with his anger over his father’s death and his mother’s new boyfriend. Readers watch as Arthur transfers much of his love for his father to Mr. Hampton and accepts responsibility for saving the art when it becomes endangered. Written in a homespun style that reflects the simple components of the artwork, the story guides readers along with Arthur to an understanding of the most important things in life. Luminescent, just like the artwork it celebrates.”—Kirkus, July 2015

★  “ A middle school student learns the meaning of redemption in this excellent coming-of-age story. For the rest of the country, it was the year President Kennedy was assassinated. For Arthur Owens, it would always be the year his Dad died. Arthur is struggling to adapt. When he sees his Dad’s hat being worn by the neighborhood “Junk Man,” it is just too much. Arthur isn’t a bad kid, but he picks up that brick and throws it just the same. The judge pronounces a “highly unconventional sentence.” At the behest of the victim James Hampton, the “Junk Man,” Arthur must spend every weekend of his community service helping to complete Hampton’s artistic masterpiece. Inspired by real life artist James Hampton’s life and work, “The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly,” the plot avoids overt religious tones and sticks with the exploration of friendship, love, and life’s most important lessons. From the “Junk Man’s” neighbor, Groovy Jim, to no-nonsense Probation Officer Billie to Arthur’s new best pal Squeak, and even his family, Pearsall has struck just the right tone by imbuing her well-rounded, interesting characters with authentic voices and pacing the action perfectly. Give this to fans of Wendy Mass’s Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life (Little, Brown, 2006) and Gennifer Choldenko’s Al Capone Does My Shirts (Penguin, 2004). Reluctant readers may be intimidated by the page count, but a booktalk or read-aloud with this title should change their minds. VERDICT A recommended purchase for all libraries.”—School Library Journal, July 2015

★  “ Pearsall’s latest historical novel, set around the time of JFK’s assassination, shifts its focus away from the familiar topics, instead focusing inward on the main character’s redemption. When Arthur T. Owens hurls a brick at the local trash picker, James Hampton, whom he spies wearing his recently deceased father’s hat, he receives a most unusual sentence: 120 hours of community service with the Junk Man himself. Toting Hampton’s list of the seven most important things, Arthur reluctantly scavenges, unsure of the purpose of wood, lightbulbs, coffee cans, foil, mirrors, glass bottles, and cardboard, until he discovers what James does with them. In the garage is the Junk Man’s shiny, thronelike masterpiece, which he calls The Throne of the Third Heaven. Readers will be moved by Arthur’s growth, as he forms an attachment to the man to whom he initially gave so little thought, as well as by his dedication to saving the folk artist’s prized work after his death. Pearsall shines a light on an amazing, lesser-known artist, whose pieces are housed in the Smithsonian Museum, with an author’s note detailing the true story. A moving exploration of how there is often so much more than meets the eye.” —Booklist, August 2015

 


Three Stars for The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall
September 01, 2015

Three Stars for The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall

★  “ Traumatized by his father’s recent death, a boy throws a brick at an old man who collects junk in his neighborhood and winds up on probation working for him.Pearsall bases the book on a famed real work of folk art, the Throne of the Third Heaven, by James Hampton, a janitor who built his work in a garage in Washington, D.C., from bits of light bulbs, foil, mirrors, wood, bottles, coffee cans, and cardboard—the titular seven most important things. In late 1963, 13-year-old Arthur finds himself looking for junk for Mr. Hampton, who needs help with his artistic masterpiece, begun during World War II. The book focuses on redemption rather than art, as Hampton forgives the fictional Arthur for his crime, getting the boy to participate in his work at first reluctantly, later with love. Arthur struggles with his anger over his father’s death and his mother’s new boyfriend. Readers watch as Arthur transfers much of his love for his father to Mr. Hampton and accepts responsibility for saving the art when it becomes endangered. Written in a homespun style that reflects the simple components of the artwork, the story guides readers along with Arthur to an understanding of the most important things in life. Luminescent, just like the artwork it celebrates.”—Kirkus, July 2015

★  “ A middle school student learns the meaning of redemption in this excellent coming-of-age story. For the rest of the country, it was the year President Kennedy was assassinated. For Arthur Owens, it would always be the year his Dad died. Arthur is struggling to adapt. When he sees his Dad’s hat being worn by the neighborhood “Junk Man,” it is just too much. Arthur isn’t a bad kid, but he picks up that brick and throws it just the same. The judge pronounces a “highly unconventional sentence.” At the behest of the victim James Hampton, the “Junk Man,” Arthur must spend every weekend of his community service helping to complete Hampton’s artistic masterpiece. Inspired by real life artist James Hampton’s life and work, “The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly,” the plot avoids overt religious tones and sticks with the exploration of friendship, love, and life’s most important lessons. From the “Junk Man’s” neighbor, Groovy Jim, to no-nonsense Probation Officer Billie to Arthur’s new best pal Squeak, and even his family, Pearsall has struck just the right tone by imbuing her well-rounded, interesting characters with authentic voices and pacing the action perfectly. Give this to fans of Wendy Mass’s Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life (Little, Brown, 2006) and Gennifer Choldenko’s Al Capone Does My Shirts (Penguin, 2004). Reluctant readers may be intimidated by the page count, but a booktalk or read-aloud with this title should change their minds. VERDICT A recommended purchase for all libraries.”—School Library Journal, July 2015

★  “ Pearsall’s latest historical novel, set around the time of JFK’s assassination, shifts its focus away from the familiar topics, instead focusing inward on the main character’s redemption. When Arthur T. Owens hurls a brick at the local trash picker, James Hampton, whom he spies wearing his recently deceased father’s hat, he receives a most unusual sentence: 120 hours of community service with the Junk Man himself. Toting Hampton’s list of the seven most important things, Arthur reluctantly scavenges, unsure of the purpose of wood, lightbulbs, coffee cans, foil, mirrors, glass bottles, and cardboard, until he discovers what James does with them. In the garage is the Junk Man’s shiny, thronelike masterpiece, which he calls The Throne of the Third Heaven. Readers will be moved by Arthur’s growth, as he forms an attachment to the man to whom he initially gave so little thought, as well as by his dedication to saving the folk artist’s prized work after his death. Pearsall shines a light on an amazing, lesser-known artist, whose pieces are housed in the Smithsonian Museum, with an author’s note detailing the true story. A moving exploration of how there is often so much more than meets the eye.” —Booklist, August 2015