Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall

When Arthur saw the trash picker wearing his dead father's hat he couldn't stop himself from throwing the brick at him.  The judge is ready to put Arthur in juvie for a long time but surprisingly, James Hampton - the trash picker - speaks up and asks the judge to give Arthur community service working for him.  When Arthur shows up for his first day at work he finds a list asking him to collect the seven most important things:  glass bottles, foil, cardboard, pieces of wood, lightbulbs, coffee cans, and mirrors.  Arthur starts going through the trash himself and comes up with a few things to bring back including a lamp. He figures that if a lightbulb is important, an entire lamp must be better, right?  Wrong.  He is chastised by his parole officer to get exactly what he is asked, no more, no less.  After several weeks of working alone Arthur finally gets the chance to see how the seven things are being used:  Hampton is transforming the trash into a huge piece of art depicting heaven that takes up most of the big garage where Hampton is working.  Suddenly, Arthur realizes how important his work is, even to the point of feeling responsible for keeping it from destruction when Hampton dies of a long term illness.

While fiction, this book is based on the real life work of folk artist James Hampton whose piece is on display in the Smithsonian.  Arthur's growth is realistic as he comes to grips with his father's life and death and begins to understand the bigger picture of Hampton's eccentricities.  I liked the main characters and thought the secondary people were well drawn, too.  And while I'm pretty sure I've seen the artwork on a trip to the Smithsonian, now I have to go back and look at it again with all the new knowledge I have.

Watch my video review of this book here:  https://youtu.be/tFWHWJtS5ts

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