The One Thing You’d Save

Listening Library. 2021. 24p. $22. ISBN 9780593458662.
Gr 3-7–“Imagine that your home is on fire. You’re allowed to save one thing. / Your family and pets are safe… / Your Most Important Thing. Any size.” With that, Ms. Chang challenges her class to name their Most Important Things. “For once we got good homework,” the kids respond. Newbery Medalist Park uses a 14th-century Korean poetic form, sijo, to share the students’ choices, which reveal much about them. A full cast, led by Nancy Wu as Ms. Chang, energetically embody the young, diverse voices whose things to save prove to be practical (phone, wallet), beloved (saved-up-to-purchase sneakers), sentimental (Gran’s hand-knit cardigan made from Dad’s unraveled sweater), and inspiringly altruistic (Mom’s insulin). Even Ms. Chang shares a revelation at the assignment’s end. The recording concludes like a classroom roster, with each of the 16 narrators reading their own names aloud alphabetically—showcasing a veritable who’s who of youthfully cast veterans including Maxwell Glick, Kirby Heyborne, Jorjeana Marie, and Ariadne Meyers.
VERDICT Less than half an hour long, Park’s delightful latest beckons to even the most reluctant readers; pair with the printed title to simultaneously experience the whimsical illustrations by Robert Sae-Heng.

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