The Seventh Most Important Thing

5 CDs. 6 hrs. Brilliance. 2015. $24.99. ISBN 9781501256882.
Gr 4–7—It is 1963, and seventh grader Arthur Owens is mourning his father's death. In the Washington, DC, neighborhood where Arthur lives with his mother and sister, an old black man rummages through trash cans for glass bottles, foil, cardboard, pieces of wood, lightbulbs, coffee cans, and mirrors. When Arthur sees the junk man, wearing his dad's discarded Harley Davidson ball cap, he hurls a brick at the old man. Arthur gets three weeks in juvie and at the junk man's request is sentenced to 120 hours helping him collect these seven most important things. At school, Arthur happens upon a classmate who's been imprisoned in a barrel of basketballs. Arthur rescues Squeak and finds a friend. The boys discover that in a rented garage, the junk man is building a religious shrine. Nick Podehl creates a believable voice for each character. The author based her junk man on the American folk artist James Hampton, whose Throne of the Third Heaven is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
VERDICT Recommended for all middle schoolers. ["Pearsall has struck just the right tone by imbuing her well-rounded, interesting characters with authentic voices and pacing the action perfectly": SLJ 7/15 starred review of the Knopf book.]

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