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Review of Orbiting Jupiter

schmidt_orbiting jupiterOrbiting Jupiter
by Gary D. Schmidt
Middle School   Clarion   185 pp.
10/15   978-0-544-46222-9   $17.99

Jack’s new foster brother, Joseph, has a troubled past. The fourteen-year-old attacked a teacher, was subsequently incarcerated at a juvenile detention center, and has a baby daughter named Jupiter whom he’s never seen. At school, Joseph has a rough time, with students and educators alike picking on him, but he grows to love the daily routine of farm life. As Jack (a sixth grader) and his parents gradually peel away Joseph’s cold veneer, it seems as if their family may be complete. But it soon becomes clear that things will never be simple, as Joseph’s single-minded desire to parent his daughter leads to strife. Then Joseph’s father comes violently back into the picture, with tragic results. The ending is bittersweet but as satisfying as a two-box-of-tissues tearjerker can possibly be (in the realm of juvenile fiction, Schmidt is the master of the emotional gut-punch). The heartbreak unfolds organically and — in an impressive show of authorial restraint—succinctly. Jack’s narrative voice reads like a pithier Doug Swieteck (from Schmidt’s Okay for Now, rev. 5/11), and there is definitely more than a passing resemblance between the two characters (and Jack’s gym teacher is the aforementioned Doug’s older brother). Schmidt is at his most dynamic in his sensory descriptions (ice-skating on a pond at night: “the feel of the skates roughing and sliding over the ice, the way your knees know what to do…the heat on your toes, the cold on your eyes and the cold in your mouth”). And so what if Jack and Joseph aren’t the most realistic of teenagers? The boys’ big hearts and the sadness of Joseph’s story will grab readers nonetheless.

From the November/December 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Sam Bloom

Sam Bloom is a former elementary and middle school teacher. He is currently senior children's librarian at the Blue Ash branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County in Ohio.

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Comments

  1. I truly loved this book my son just read this book to me for a book report. It was truly a tear jerker. I would definitely recommend this book to a middle schooler.

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