November 25

Seven Important Things About The Seventh Most Important Thing for Seventh Grade Readers by Amy Estersohn

There’s been a lot of talk among writers about writing books for readers ages 11-14 who are no longer interested in most middle grades literature and who are too young for most young adult titles.

Shelley Pearsall’s a self-described writer of middle school lit, and her new book, The Seventh Most Important Thing, is bound to challenge, engage, and delight most tween readers for seven important reasons.

1. An appealingly vague cover

Whereas younger readers might rely on a book cover to assist in comprehension, I’ve noticed that middle school readers rely on book covers that keep them guessing.  By juxtaposing a drawn image of lightbulbs on top of a silver background, the cover of The Seventh Most Important Thing is not only visually distinct, but also it invites the reader to guess more about what’s going on. 

2.  Plotting for an impatient reader

By page 10, the reader is introduced to 13-year-old Arthur Owens, who threw a brick at the “Junk Man,” and the Junk Man, who wants Arthur to serve out his probation by helping him collect seven important things from the garbage.

3.  Patterned chapter titles

Interspersed between numbered chapters are titled chapters about each of  the seven most important things.  This feature gently teaches readers how to pay attention to chapter titles and what to learn from reading them.

4. Just enough suspense to keep the reader going 

The Junk Man’s use of the seven most important things is within the realm of the plausible and causes the reader to ask more questions instead of fewer once the big mystery is revealed.

5. Genre-pushing historical fiction

This is a work of fiction with a lengthy historical note at the end.  Readers who lack background knowledge will not find themselves lost or confused within the story.

6.  Edgy issues are presented gently

Many the hot-button issues among teens are present in this book: alcoholism, death, hunger, physical abuse, academic amotivation, and juvenile hall, to name a few.  However, these issues don’t distract from the plot and instead provide the reader with clues to understanding Arthur better.

7.  An ending open to interpretation

Too many middle grades book madly dash to a happily-ever-after ending after trodging through emotionally difficult terrain.  While many readers will interpret the ending of The Seventh Most Important Thing as a happy one, others may come away feeling like Arthur learned all of life’s important lessons too late to make any meaningful changes.

Amy Estersohn is a seventh grade English teacher and is nerdy enough to inform the nearest bookseller she can find when she thinks a middle grade title is improperly shelved as a YA.  Her reading-related tweets can be found at @hmx_mse