The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall

Published by Alfred A. Knopf

Summary: When Arthur Owens throws a brick at the Junk Man who roams his neighborhood picking through trash, the old man’s arm is broken and Arthur is sent to juvie. At his probation hearing, the Junk Man, a.k.a. James Hampton, requests that Arthur be sentenced to community service helping him. On his first day of the job, Arthur goes to the address he’s been given and finds a locked garage with a rusty shopping cart outside containing a list of the seven most important things he’s to find in the trash: cardboard, foil, light bulbs, mirrors, pieces of wood, glass bottles, and coffee cans. As the months wear on, Arthur gets to know Mr. Hampton and helps him create his work of art, The Throne of the Third Heaven. He begins to see that the seven most important things on Mr. Hampton’s list parallel the seven most important things in his own life. Through their work, he is able to grieve for his recently deceased father and let go of his guilt about his brick-throwing. By the end of their time together, everything has changed, and Arthur finds himself responsible for sharing Mr. Hampton’s masterpiece with the world. Grades 5-8.

Pros: A powerful story of redemption based on the real-life James Hampton and his eccentric and visionary work of art. The characters are perfectly rendered, from a Holden Caulfield-like Arthur to his gruff but caring probation officer, Officer Billie, to his struggling mother, and of course, the eccentric Mr. Hampton himself.

Cons: The two photographs of James Hampton and his work of art are too small to satisfy my curiosity about what he and the amazing Throne of the Third Heaven looked like.

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