For children in grades 4 through 8
seventh
Thirteen-year-old Arthur Owens misses his dad, who was recently killed in a motorcycle accident, and while his mother may have been ready to pack up and clean out his things, Arthur was not. So when he sees the man everyone refers to as the “Junk Man” going through their garbage and wearing his dad’s favorite hat, he picks up a brick and throws it at him.

Thankfully, the “Junk Man” is not seriously injured, but Arthur is sent to juvenile detention and when he is finally released he is so happy to be home it is hard for him to think about facing Judge Warner—the judge who will decide his punishment.

On court day, Arthur learns the “Junk Man” is named James Hampton—a man he barely recognizes in dress clothes. And while Judge Warner is a hardcore, unsympathetic figure looking for an appropriate punishment for Arthur, Mr. Hampton surprises everyone when he steps in and convinces the judge of a more redemptive opportunity for Arthur—120 community service hours to be served working for Mr. Hampton.

On his first day of community service Arthur is barely able to locate Mr. Hampton’s workshop and upon arrival finds Mr. Hampton’s rickety cart and a note instructing him to gather the Seven Most Important Things—light bulbs, foil, mirrors, pieces of wood, glass bottles, coffee cans, and cardboard.

Arthur is shocked and appalled to be going through peoples’ garbage, but after just a few weekends of community service he learns Mr. Hampton is working on something much bigger than collecting garbage.

Other reviewers describe Shelley Pearsall’s work as luminescent, remarkable, excellent, and moving; and while one is hard pressed to find a better descriptor, stunning fits nicely into the group. Pearsall’s masterpiece explores friendship, family, love, and the important lesson of “not judging a book by its cover.” Her ability to parcel the story out will hook readers and combined with her interesting and well-fleshed out characters there is not a chance of putting this book down until the endnotes about the real James Hampton have been read and studied.

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