The Seventh Most Important Thing (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Set in the 1960s, The Seventh Most Important Thing is a story about an unusual friendship between Arthur T. Owens, a troubled 13 year old, and the eccentric “Junk Man.” Arthur is angry over the death of his father, leading him to make a bad choice. His punishment is 120 hours of community service with the Junk Man, who gives him a collection list of the Seven Most important Things, but for what purpose? Each item helps Arthur deal with events and emotions in his own life. He soon learns that the items are also part of something meaningful and grand for the “Junk Man.”

— From Holiday Picks 2015


This "luminescent" (Kirkus Reviews) story of anger and art, loss and redemption will appeal to fans of Lisa Graff's Lost in the Sun and Vince Vawter's Paperboy.


Arthur T. Owens grabbed a brick and hurled it at the trash picker. Arthur had his reasons, and the brick hit the Junk Man in the arm, not the head. But none of that matters to the judge--he is ready to send Arthur to juvie forever. Amazingly, it's the Junk Man himself who offers an alternative: 120 hours of community service . . . working for him.

Arthur is given a rickety shopping cart and a list of the Seven Most Important Things: glass bottles, foil, cardboard, pieces of wood, lightbulbs, coffee cans, and mirrors. He can't believe it--is he really supposed to rummage through people's trash? But it isn't long before Arthur realizes there's more to the Junk Man than meets the eye, and the "trash" he's collecting is being transformed into something more precious than anyone could imagine. . . .

Inspired by the work of folk artist James Hampton, Shelley Pearsall has crafted an affecting and redemptive novel about discovering what shines within us all, even when life seems full of darkness.

"A moving exploration of how there is often so much more than meets the eye." --Booklist, starred review

"There are so many things to love about this book. Remarkable." --The Christian Science Monitor

About the Author

A former teacher and museum historian, SHELLEY PEARSALL is now a full-time author. The idea for this novel began many years ago when she first saw outsider artist James Hampton's amazing work at the Smithsonian. She was disappointed that so little is known about Hampton and was intrigued that his work was brought to light by anonymous sources. It was the perfect foundation for this redemptive, inspiring historical novel. Her first novel, Trouble Don't Last, won the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. To learn more about the author and her work, visit
Product Details
ISBN: 9780553497281
ISBN-10: 0553497286
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 8th, 2015
Pages: 288
Language: English