Published by Clarion Books
Summary: “Imagine your house is on fire. You’re allowed to save one thing. Your family and pets are safe, so don’t worry about them.” With this assignment, a class starts thinking about what’s important to them: a handknit sweater, a photo, a lock of hair, a collection. The kids express themselves in poems inspired by the ancient Korean poetry form sijo. Their presentations spark comments and debate among their classmates as they contemplate what they value…and even get their teacher to change her mind. 72 pages; grades 3-7.
Pros: Not quite long enough to be a novel in verse, this illustrated collection of poems is easy to read, but not simple, and will surely engage students in conversation long after they’ve turned the last page. I loved Linda Sue Park’s final statement in her author’s note about sijo: “Using old forms in new ways is how poetry continually renews itself, and the world.”
Cons: It would have been helpful to have the speaker in each poem identified.
2 thoughts on “The One Thing You’d Save by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Robert Sae-Heng”
I don’t like the premise of the house being on fire. One of my students recently lost everything in a house fire. I think it would be less traumatic to say something like “if you had to leave your house suddenly, what is the one thing you would take?”
Actually, it turns out that one of the kids in the book has also experienced a devastating fire, and gives an important perspective about what that is like. Like all good children’s books and poetry, this offers both a way for kids who share the experience to process it and those who don’t to gain empathy.