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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The Most Important Thing
Inspired by real life artist James Hampton's life and work, it hard to believe that Shelley Pearsall book is fiction. She builds a world and creates characters that give readers an opportunity to reflect on their own attitudes and actions as they interact with those characters others may be viewed as different or eccentric.
What works best is the character development of Arthur as he goes on his own personal journey of discovery. I love the emotions from this book! Pearsall really has a knack for getting readers to invest emotionally in her characters. Arthur is in the true sense of the word a teen boy that has been through a lot of difficult events and had many difficult choices to make. He is flawed, but what person isn’t. Even though he makes a few bad choices, Pearsall makes the read emotionally invested in his future. She uses these emotions to help keep the plot moving and developing while dropping in some valuable lessons for the reader.
There isn’t much world building and the setting has a basic description. In many ways this works. It is historical fiction, and using background knowledge some readers will be able to get a picture of the setting without it. However, it also makes the story seem timeless. Yes, this is takes place in the past, but the events that take place in The Seventh Most Important Thing, could possibly happen today. People, including young adults, make poor choices and have to live with the consequences. A person’s actions affect those around them. It is the choices one makes after that that can matter the most. Setting doesn’t affect the events, the people do.
This book is not just about how people change, but how people’s perceptions can change over time. This is a perfect book for a middle school reader. However, it is a book that anyone can enjoy.
What makes this book stand out is the fact that this story is based on James Hampton, the creator of the actual masterpiece, "The Throne of The Third Heaven" which is on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.
Realistic and likable characters