Oribiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

Reviewed by Sara, Simsbury Library

When Jack meets his new foster brother, Joseph, he knows that Joseph almost killed a teacher, was incarcerated, and has a daughter that he has never seen. Joseph is quiet and doesn’t like to be touched. He seems to connect only with the cows at his new farm home. He loves to read, is amazing at Geometry, and can climb the rope to the ceiling in thirty-eight seconds. Without using his legs.

Over time, he connects with Jack. They get in trouble together and decide to walk to school daily after the bus driver asks him if he is the kid who fathered a kid. We learn about his relationship with Maddie, a girl he would walk seven miles in the snow to see, and how she was sent away when her parents found out she was pregnant. Joseph was convinced to sign away his parental rights so baby Jupiter could be adopted. Pissed at the missed opportunity, Joseph’s father decides to hire a lawyer and demand money from Maddie’s parents for Joseph’s signature. When Joseph’s father shows up at the farm, drunk and dangerous, the story takes a sharp turn.

I fell in love with Schmidt’s stories when I read Okay for Now. Orbiting Jupiter is a very short book that shares only a brief time with Jack and Joseph. I feel like it was too short. I know there is literary purpose behind Schmidt’s decision to make a novel of this length. I know we are only supposed to know about Joseph’s time with Jack’s family and what happens with his daughter. Still, I want more. I felt like I was just getting to know the characters. Therefore, although it was very well written and emotionally touching, I can’t nominate this book for the Printz.

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