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The Seventh Most Important Thing is a realistic fiction book. Arthur Owens gets really upset when, recently after his father has died in a motorcycle accident, his mother throws out all of his father’s things to start fresh. Arthur doesn’t want to start over right away, he’s still remembering his dad. That’s when the local junk man, a guy who looks homeless and wanders their neighborhood going through trash, is spotted wearing Arthur’s dad’s hat. Arthur is so upset he picks up a brick off the ground and chucks it at the junk man.

In court, the judge wants to send Arthur to juvie for life for breaking the junk man’s shoulder. But the junk man, Mr. Hampton is his real name, offers an alternative. Arthur can serve 120 hours of community service working for Mr. Hampton. That means picking through garbage.

Arthur is still angry and reluctant at first, but Mr. Hampton seems to understand him. Mr. Hampton tells him to collect the seven most important things: glass bottles, foil, cardboard, pieces of weed, lightbulbs, coffee cans, and mirrors. Arthur thinks it’s annoying and silly to get this stuff, but it intrigues him to try and find out what Mr. Hampton is doing with all of it. And when he finds out, he is really surprised and has a new appreciation for life and Mr. Hampton.

The other book that has a prison theme to it on the Caudill list this year is All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook. I like how both don’t put a stigma on the characters and shows that anyone can redeem themselves. Although, I don’t think this is the only prison fiction kids should read… sometimes bad guys are indeed bad guys.

This book is a slow build of Arthur working through his problems. Honestly, I thought it had too many extra scenes/details that didn’t build on the character, motifs or plot. I probably wouldn’t have finished it if it hadn’t been for the audio. But, it wasn’t a bad story. It just wasn’t the best. Take my word with a grain of salt, because I tend not to like Shelley Pearsall books and she is popular with kids. It’s funny because I usually like angst-ridden, character driven stories like this, it’s just the way the story is told that didn’t get me engaged. Our teen librarian said he enjoyed it, although it wasn’t his favorite either.

I did like that it was based on a true story: “It’s based on the life of James Hampton, a folk artist from the 1960’s, a janitor and a recluse intent on creating his vision of heaven from scraps. His life’s work, The Throne of the Third Heaven, made entirely out of foil, light bulbs, wood, mirrors and other items easily collected on the streets, was discovered posthumously and donated to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.” –