Traumatized by his father’s recent death, a boy throws a brick at an old man who collects junk in his neighborhood and winds up on probation working for him.
Pearsall bases the book on a famed real work of folk art, the Throne of the Third Heaven, by James Hampton, a janitor who built his work in a garage in Washington, D.C., from bits of light bulbs, foil, mirrors, wood, bottles, coffee cans, and cardboard—the titular seven most important things. In late 1963, 13-year-old Arthur finds himself looking for junk for Mr. Hampton, who needs help with his artistic masterpiece, begun during World War II. The book focuses on redemption rather than art, as Hampton forgives the fictional Arthur for his crime, getting the boy to participate in his work at first reluctantly, later with love. Arthur struggles with his anger over his father’s death and his mother’s new boyfriend. Readers watch as Arthur transfers much of his love for his father to Mr. Hampton and accepts responsibility for saving the art when it becomes endangered. Written in a homespun style that reflects the simple components of the artwork, the story guides readers along with Arthur to an understanding of the most important things in life.
Luminescent, just like the artwork it celebrates. (Historical fiction. 10-14)