Thursday, March 17, 2016

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt. 186 p. Clarion/ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October, 2015. 9780544462229. (Purchased.)

Sixth grader, Jack Hurd relates the story of Joseph, the broken fourteen-year-old that his parents decide to foster. Joseph comes to the Hurds angry and withdrawn but they know how to handle angry and withdrawn. Mr. Hurd sets Joseph to work milking the cows even though Joseph has never been near a cow in his life, let alone milked one. For Jack, when Rosie the cow accepts Joseph immediately, that's all he needs to know. He just wishes that Joseph would stop calling him Jackie.

And that's all I'm going to say about this sad, powerful, not-to-be-missed tearjerker. Oh, there will be tears and quite possibly heaving sobs. I am officially gutted. I cannot talk about this book (and I have booktalked it) without tearing up. I cannot look at the cover without swallowing hard.

I swear, there are not many authors who can do what Gary D. Schmidt does in so few words. The economy, beauty, imagery and heart in his writing is astonishing. I would like to believe that I could identify his style in an auditory version of a blind taste test. In each book, he makes particularly effective use of repetition as a literary device.

I must admit that when I first heard the synopsis, my eyebrows rose. While I know that physically, it might be possible for a thirteen-year-old to father a child with another thirteen-year-old, how might one fashion a story around it without exploitation or sensationalism? (Or romanticism, even.) Leave it to Mr. Schmidt to craft such a story humanely.

Do not miss this. It's a must-purchase.


  1. I couldn't even begin to review it. I finished reading it standing in my kitchen, sobbing. My husband thought I had lost my mind. As a former foster parent for many years, there were a few unrealistic procedural issues, but they had nothing to do with the story itself, which was amazing. And horrible. And wonderful. I hate this book. Everyone should read it.

    And I can't talk about it without crying again, either!

    1. There were a few instances where I wondered about procedure. Thanks. I love your thinking about the book - well put.


    2. Minor details (no WAY would a visit like that happen at the foster parents' home), BUT that didn't take away from the story itself, in fact it helped highlight so much about each of the characters, so I can happily forgive that artistic license!