Monday, September 21, 2015

The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall





The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall (Knopf, September 8, 2015, for ages 8 to 12)

Source: Penguin Random House

Synopsis (from the publisher): 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. . . .


Why I recommend it: This book has everything you want in an inspiring MG novel:

 -- A strong main character, who is flawed but grows and changes. Your heart will ache for Arthur, who is having trouble dealing with the death of his father. There's no excuse for Arthur's violent action, but Pearsall does give us an explanation, which I won't mention here in case it's considered a spoiler.

 -- An unusual situation. I don't think I've ever read another MG where the protagonist has to go to juvenile court and then carry out a punishment like this. It was also fascinating discovering exactly what the Junk Man was doing with the seven most important things.

 -- A setting you can easily picture and a realistic depiction of life in Washington, DC in 1963. While Arthur is in Juvie, JFK is assassinated. So while the story isn't about that, the events of 1963/64 provide the backdrop for this historical novel.

And yes, there's a spiritual nature to the Junk Man and his project, but Pearsall never preaches. This is based on the true story of folk artist James Hampton and his amazing project that now sits in the Smithsonian.

Favorite line: But whenever he thought about quitting he'd hear Judge Warner saying, The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. And it would make him mad enough to stay.  (p. 60)


Here's my review of another Shelley Pearsall book, from July 2012.

Shelley Pearsall's website


What's one of the most important things you look for when choosing a novel to read?


21 comments:

  1. A great title and it sounds like a compelling MG story. Can't wait to read this one. I'm always looking for a character I can bond with in a story that keeps my interest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't that a wonderful title? Certainly pulled me in.

      Delete
  2. This sounds like a really, really great one! I look for lots of things~ humor, adventure, friendship, but mostly I think that I look for a sense of heart in MG books :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jess! This book is overflowing with heart.

      Delete
  3. Ooh, this one sounds like a good story. I really like stories about characters in emotionally difficult situations who overcome challenges in some way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Arthur certainly has some challenges to overcome in this book, Andrea. Makes for a compelling story.

      Delete
  4. This does sound really different and good. Thanks for letting us all know about it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I sure hope I can find time to read this one soon. It sounds very fresh and unusual. I love the title and the cover and the concept. Thanks for the review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by, Rosi. This book is definitely unusual.

      Delete
  6. I was intrigued by the plot, and then you mentioned the historical setting, and then the little detail that it's based on a real artist. Definitely want to read this one.

    ReplyDelete
  7. It feels like this time period in history has always fallen through the cracks, for me. It was too recent to be considered 'history' history for most my classes, and not current enough to make the non-history classes. Of course I have some vague notion what it was like...but that's about it. This book sounds like the perfect way to change that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha, Suzanne! I vaguely remember that time period. I was a little girl! There aren't many MG books I can think of about that time in our history.

      Delete
  8. This was interesting, but I wish I had known from the start that it was based on a real event. There are more books on the 1960s than there were-- I reviewed a bunch of them this week. PLUS, I have some books in the collection still that were PUBLISHED in the 1960s, and those are interesting. I adored Cold War on Maple Street.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Karen. I loved books written in the 60s too.

      Delete
  9. This sounds like a very interesting book. I don't remember reading anything like it before and I am even more intrigued knowing it is based on real events. Thanks for sharing it with us!
    ~Jess

    ReplyDelete
  10. This sounds really good. I think I would like this book a lot. The time period is one that interests me, and I just really like a good story. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's history to you, I know, Erik. But I was a kid in the 1960s! I really like a good story too.

      Delete
  11. This sounds really good. I recommend books for boys on my blog and this sounds perfect!
    (ps--I was 10 when JFK was assassinated)

    ReplyDelete

YAY for comments! I read and appreciate each one and I always try to answer. All opinions welcome. Let's have a conversation.