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THE ONE THING YOU'D SAVE by Linda Sue Park Kirkus Star


by Linda Sue Park ; illustrated by Robert Sae-Heng

Pub Date: March 16th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-328-51513-1
Publisher: Clarion Books

A poetic exploration of middle-grade values.

Newbery Medalist Park presents a provocative collection of narrative poems inspired by sijo, a 14th-century Korean syllabic verse form. Teacher Ms. Chang poses to her class a variation of the timeless desert-island question: “Imagine that your home is on fire,” and, while family and pets are spared, “you’re allowed to save one thing.” Chang’s students react well to this “good homework,” sharing with their classmates a multitude of objects they’d protect from the hypothetical flames. Some choose eminently practical items like a cellphone (“somebody’s gotta call 9-1-1, right?”) and “MY DAD’S WALLET. DUH” (because “if a fire burns everything up, you’re gonna need money. A lot”). Other treasures reflect differing levels of maturity and self- involvement: a mother’s insulin kit, a rug to smother flames, sneakers like “Jeremy Lin wore when he scored thirty-eight points / against the Lakers” and for which the student had saved pennies for months, a “muddy blue” sweater May’s father’s mother had knit for her father that her other grandmother then unraveled and reknit for her. Coupled with debut illustrator Sae-Heng’s accessible grayscale sketches of the objects, often in situ, Park’s subjects’ mementos offer middle-grade readers much food for thought regarding what one values and how others can touch one’s life. Names and other details indicate a diverse class. A note on sijo concludes the volume.

Park’s extended rumination has the power to bring us home.

(Verse fiction. 8-12)