It’s been awhile since I did MMGM and a long time since I’ve blogged in general, but I’m excited to come back this week with one of my favorite MGs I’ve read recently. During my break, I’ve been branching out and reading things other than MG. (We all need a break sometimes.) But this book reminded me why I love MG and sharing my recs with you.
I’m not sure what first drew to this title, which I found in my library’s new books section. I was drawn immediately to the voice and the protagonist, whom I connected with immediately. What can I say, I am an underdog champion. And this book is full of underdogs.
Here’s the synopsis (from Amazon):
One kid. One crime. One chance to make things right.
It was a bitterly cold day when 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 for the foreseeable future. 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 American folk artist James Hampton, award-winning author Shelley Pearsall has crafted an affecting and redemptive novel about discovering what shines within us all, even when life seems full of darkness.
What I loved about this book:
1. Underdogs! It wasn’t till I was typing up this post that I realized that almost every character—at least the good characters—are wounded heroes/heroines in some way. Arthur, the MC is recovering from losing his father; James Hampton is battling his memories from World War II, Squeak is bullied for being smart, and even the police officer, who is tough at times, has a soft exterior.
2. Redemption: This is a major theme of this book, and again, I love a story where the character who does something bad experiences unconditional love. Arthur doesn’t even know what the word redemption means when James Hampton forgives him and rescues him from juvie, but throughout the story, Arthur learns to rescue and redeem people and things himself.
3. It’s about a real artist. What was really interesting about this book was how one of the main characters was a real artist who lived. Pearsall took the few facts known facts about James Hampton's life and fictionalized them, but I enjoyed learning about this little known artist and his vision.
4. An amazing first line: “On a bitter November day in Washington, D.C., when everything felt metallic—when the sky was gray and the wind stung and the dry leaves were making death-rattle sounds in the alleys—thirteen-year-old Arthur Owens picked up a brick from the corner of a crumbling building and threw it an old man’s head.” Doesn’t that make you want to read on? Such a rich and powerful sentence that packs a punch.
Amazon says this is for fans of PAPER BOY, and as a fan of that work, I heartily agree. I loved both books. The redemption theme also reminded me of classics like Magnificent Obsession and Les Miserables.
If you'd like to learn more about James Hampton and his work, follow this link.
Have you read any inspiring middle grades lately?
(In the interest of disclosure, this post contains an affiliate link. Thanks for your support!)
To check out more Marvelous Middle Grade suggestions, check out Shannon Messenger's blog.