cover image The One Thing You’d Save

The One Thing You’d Save

Linda Sue Park, illus. by Robert Sae-Heng. Clarion, $16.99 (72p) ISBN 978-1-328-51513-1

In a classroom, teacher Ms. Chang poses a premise: “Imagine that your home is on fire. You’re allowed to save one thing./ Your family and pets are safe, so don’t worry about them./ Your Most Important Thing. Any size.” The students respond—some share, others contemplate privately—traversing a wide terrain, including the practical (“MY DAD’S WALLET. DUH”) and deeply personal remembrances. One child reflects silently about their “total dump” of a home (“Be glad to see it burn down”), while another secretly recalls escaping an actual burning building: “The only thing you worry about saving is your own sorry skin.” Readers may not realize that the volume is a collection of poems until they read Park’s closing note, which explains her inspiration: traditional Korean sijo verse, which consists of three lines of 13 to 17 syllables and is sometimes broken into six shorter lines. This relatively flexible structure creates a rhythmic variety of declarations, reflections, and interjections, with occasional dialogue employed throughout, complemented by Sae-Heng’s gray-toned, sketchlike illustrations. While each child’s voice isn’t entirely distinct, the class’s camaraderie and caring spirit come through clearly, poised to inspire thoughtful classroom discussion. Ages 8–12. [em](Mar.) [/em]