The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall
A 13-year old boy learns about redemption in this touching book. Arthur is grieving the senseless death of his father, drunk on a motorcycle, when he loses it after seeing the neighborhood junk man wearing his father’s hat, thrown away by his mother. He throws a brick at the junk man and injures him. After spending a few weeks in a juvenile detention facility, he is sentenced to an unusual probation: assisting the junk man, named Mr. Hampton, with his work. Mr. Hampton leaves Arthur a list of things to collect: the seven most important things, consisting of trash like light bulbs, foil, and cardboard. At first Arthur collects these objects on his own, but after Mr. Hampton collapses at his garage and Arthur finds him, the two begin working together. Arthur also makes a new friend at school who joins him scavenging. It turns out Mr. Hampton is a veteran of World War II (the book is set in 1963) and he is collecting these objects to create a sculpture, creating beauty out of broken objects being important to him because of his war experiences. Gradually, Arthur grows close to Mr. Hampton and cares about his creation, taking responsibility to see it preserved after Mr. Hampton’s death. A lovely story of friendship, loyalty, and love. The book is fiction, but is based on the real sculpture created by James Hampton that is now displayed in a museum in Washington, D.C.