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review 2016-02-24 19:19
Orbiting Jupiter / Gary D. Schmidt
Orbiting Jupiter - Gary D. Schmidt

When Jack meets his new foster brother, he already knows three things about him:

Joseph almost killed a teacher.
He was incarcerated at a place called Stone Mountain.
He has a daughter. Her name is Jupiter. And he has never seen her.

What Jack doesn’t know, at first, is how desperate Joseph is to find his baby girl.  Or how urgently he, Jack, will want to help.  But the past can’t be shaken off. Even as new bonds form, old wounds reopen. The search for Jupiter demands more from Jack than he can imagine.

This tender, heartbreaking novel is Gary D. Schmidt at his best.

 

You can tell all you need to know about someone from the way cows are around him.

 

This is Jack’s opinion concerning his new foster-brother, Joseph, who may have trouble with teachers and the other kids in school, but he is loved by Rosie the cow. Generally, I do find animals’ responses to people to say a bit at least about their mood. Horses certainly know whether you are paying attention or not (and will plant a big hoof on your foot if they are displeased with your lack of regard).

 

Milking cows, as Jack and Joseph do, is an intimate task. I learned to milk as a youngster, with a gentle old cow named Stubby. Stubby had her tail frozen off as a calf and so couldn’t whip you with it as you milked—a bonus for us apprentice milkmaids. I remember that my dad had twine tied by the other cows, so that he could capture that tail and avoid being slapped by the frequently-urine-soaked tassel at the end of it. And if a cow is unhappy with you, they will whip you with that tail and stomp their feet. Milking takes a while, crouched on a little stool, with your forehead pressed against the warm flank of a cow. If you aren’t calm at the start, you will be by the end—it is a meditative task, perfect for a young man who needs to calm down and contemplate his life as Joseph does.

 

I must confess, I have warned certain of my friends, “Dogs don’t like that guy—stay away from him.” This from a woman who is none too fond of dogs (mostly because they refuse to just be mildly friendly but insist on taking liberties). In Cuba at dinner one night, my friend suddenly asked me, “What’s wrong?” One of the stray dogs was under the table, determinedly licking my toes! Apparently I taste delicious, as excessive licking is one of several complaints I have about dogs. I’m not sure what that says about me, however.

 

This is a young adult novel—easily read in an afternoon and it depicts farm life extremely well. If I have any quibbles with it

it’s that the moral seems to be that if you have sex as a teenager, you will die, as both Joseph & his girlfriend Maddie do

(spoiler show)

. To balance that, there are a variety of adults, many supportive, some jerks, just as in real life—giving the reader a sense that not everyone will be against them always. Generally, I would not hesitate to recommend it to young readers or their parents.

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review 2016-01-07 00:58
Orbiting Jupiter
Orbiting Jupiter - Gary D. Schmidt

Twelve-year-old Jack tells the story of when Joseph comes to live with him and his parents on a farm as a foster child. They offer him a safe home, love, support and loyalty - all things he didn't have before in an abusive household or in prison. But Joseph wants nothing more than to find his baby daughter, which is difficult to do because he's only fourteen.

There was something lacking for me, but I can't figure out what it is. This book dealt with heavy issues even though it's a middle grade book, I guess, so maybe the writing didn't really coincide with what the book was about. Maybe it needed to be longer. Or have a bit more depth. The ending was predictable and convenient. But a sad read nonetheless.

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review 2015-11-13 13:14
Orbiting Jupiter
Orbiting Jupiter - Gary D. Schmidt

What a wonderful novel, from the beginning pages I knew that Gary Schmidt had created another fantastic story, a story with great energy and significance. Some of his characters are edgy and I loved how some of his sentences are short and direct, they simply want to say what they mean and move on. I was battling many emotions as I read the pages, Joseph was carrying labels from his past and there were individuals, people mature enough to see beneath these labels to who he really was, but they couldn’t and it frustrated me. Joseph knows who he is but it’s hard for him as he’s a teen and he feels alone and he feel the world is against him.   As Joseph finds comfort living with Jack and his parents, his new foster family, he begins to lighten his load. This doesn’t come easy and it’s a slow process, for his journey to this new place living on the farm, has taken him through many different challenges. Joseph has a daughter Jupiter, who is a bright spot in his mind. He fell deeply in love with Jupiter’s mother; it was like a fairy tale encompassing two people from opposite sides of the tracks. Joseph adored Madeline, his love was sincere and as he told his story, my heart broke. Joseph wishes to see his daughter, for he has never laid eyes on her. Chills and shivers snaked down my body as I finished out the novel. I highly recommend this novel, it’s a short read but with great impact.

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review 2015-07-07 11:32
Orbiting Jupiter - Gary D. Schmidt

I'm a huge Gary Schmidt fanboy--I've read literally every novel he's published. Lizzie Bright and The Wednesday Wars each earned a spot on my all-time-favorite books list; Schmidt is one of only two or three authors to have two books on that select list. For my money, he's the best writer working in kidlit today who hasn't won a Newbery.

 

So to say I was anticipating Orbiting Jupiter is a gross understatement. I scored an advanced reading copy (ARC) from my dealer--thanks Mom! (She owns Kids Ink Children's Bookstore. They get ARCs of everything.)  

 

It did not disappoint. I think I just read the Newbery winner. I hope I just read the Newbery winner. Please, God, let this be the Newbery winner. It's that good. Simple and spare and elegiac with not a word wasted or misplaced. And Schmidt is due. Past due.

 

The book asks the question whether Joseph's love for Madeline and their baby, Jupiter, conquer his age, fourteen. And answers it: not really. But the struggle is so beautiful and moving that I found myself choking back tears throughout most of the back half of the book.

 

MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD

 

 

Orbiting Jupiter strongly implies that Joseph was raped in juvie. I salute Schmidt for including that sentence; it's perfect in the context of his story. There has been a lot of criticism recently of the portrayal of rape in literature and television, and it's an important discussion to have. There is certainly room for books that pretend that sexual violence doesn't exist, but in the real world, the one Schmidt writes in, sadly, it does. Artists like Schmidt (or G.R.R. Martin) don't perpetuate rape culture by portraying it, they shine a light and start discussions that help to end it.

 

If I have one quibble, it's with the ending of the novel. I don't have any issue with books in which the protagonist dies (or is horribly maimed, as you know if you've read my work), but in this case Joseph's noble sacrifice ends the possibility of him resolving his struggle to be reunited with Jupiter on his own, and therefore comes off as something of a deus ex machina. It robs the character of his agency and the reader of the joy of witnessing his struggle and ultimate victory. It also leaves Joseph's relationship with his father fundamentally unresolved. I would have liked a longer novel that allowed us to witness the culmination of his efforts, rather than chopping it short as quickly as a car skidding off a bridge. 

(spoiler show)

 

Despite that quibble, Orbiting Jupiter is a brilliant book, and absolutely worthy of your reading time. It releases on October 16th, 2015.

 

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review 2015-06-09 14:48
Orbiting Jupiter - Gary D. Schmidt

As raw and penetrating as a blustery wind blowing through you on a wicked cold January morning.

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