Review of The One Thing You'd Save

The One Thing You’d Save
by Linda Sue Park; illus. by Robert Sae-Heng
Intermediate, Middle School    Clarion    72 pp.    g
3/21    978-1-328-51513-1    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-358-52601-8    $9.99

Ms. Chang has asked her students to think about what one thing they would save — beyond their families and pets — if their homes were on fire. “Your Most Important Thing. Any size. A grand piano? Fine.” What follows is a series of poems, inspired by an ancient form of traditional Korean poetry called sijo, that capture the voices of the kids in the class as they ponder and discuss, argue, defend their choices, and sometimes change their minds. Their most important possessions range from the obvious (“My dad’s wallet. Duh”) and humorous (cool sneakers — “I put those babies on my feet, it’s like, see ya later, fire”) to the empathetic (grabbing a mother’s insulin kit) and the aspirational (a bedroom rug to help folks in the building “Stop, Drop, and Roll”). Ms. Chang reminds the kids what to do in a real emergency, and that they all must “Protect, Affect, Respect One Another!” in class, but she also joins in the conversation and is deeply moved by their astute suggestions and profound revelations. Sae-Heng’s lovely graphic-style grayscale drawings grace every page and reflect an inclusive, modern urban landscape and school setting. This is an ode to learning with a savvy and caring educator who knows how to build community and empathy by having students share their stories and who joins in their exercises (and is even convinced to change her mind).

From the May/June 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Luann Toth
Luann Toth

Luann Toth is a former reviews editor at School Library Journal. She holds an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh.

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