Week 11, Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
Schmidt, Gary D. (2015). Orbiting jupiter. Boston, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
Joseph is a son of a plumber who ends up in a relationship with Madeleine, a well-off girl whose parents are rarely home. When their relationship is revealed, Madeleine’s parents issue an injunction to keep Joseph away from their daughter. However, Madeleine ends up pregnant and Joseph ends up moving through a group home into a high-security juvenile facility. Eventually, Joseph moves in with Jack’s family, a group of people who have never seen such a broken and defensive character. As Jack’s family does their best to show love to Joseph, he slowly emerges from his shell. Things start to look up for Joseph with Jack’s family and at school, but Joseph can just never seem to escape from the struggles of his past including his father and his daughter, Jupiter.
Keywords: single father; baby daughter; foster family; second chances
What I Think:
I have to admit that it was extremely difficult trying to get through this book with dry eyes. While I usually don’t enjoy books that are making me cry almost at every turn of the page, I truly enjoyed this story. I mainly liked this book because of how real the character seemed to be. As the reader, I felt as if I had known the character forever and could feel what he felt as he went through the terrible struggles that got him to Jack’s family. “He stopped in the boy’s bathroom. He didn’t known what was coming over him, but it was huge and terrible and strong. It was inside him and outside him, and it was already starting to scream, and it was getting louder and his head was getting louder and his brain was getting louder and he threw water in his face but he couldn’t stop it he couldn’t stop it he couldn’t stop it he couldn’t stop it” (Schmidt, 2015, p. 82). This quote describes Joseph’s feelings and actions when he first finds out that his true love was out of his life. This raw quote truly allows the reader to connect with the main character and feel what he feels as he get dealt the cards of life that lead to his struggles.
What the Experts Think:
Masterful is the word to describe Schmidts latest, the deeply moving story of a 14-yearold boy who is an out-of-wedlock father with one desire: to see his baby daughter, though laws and rules and regulations militate against this. The boy, Joseph, has a checkered past: he once took some pills he shouldn’t have and subsequently tried to kill a teacher. Accordingly, he has spent time in a correctional facility where he has been savagely beaten and abused. Despite this-or perhaps because of it-12-year-old Jack’s parents bring Joseph to live with them on their New England farm, and just like that, Jack has a foster brother. Joseph’s adjustment to a new life isn’t always an easy one; his emotions are locked up, he encounters bullies, and many of his teachers are suspicious of him. Through all of it, Joseph never abandons his dream of seeing his daughter, named Jupiter for his and the mother’s favorite planet. Told in Jack’s spare, direct first-person voice, the story’s style demonstrates the beauty of simplicity as it delineates the lives of its characters, each as superbly realized as the tumultuous New England setting. An altogether memorable novel from the ever incredible Schmidt. -Michael Cart
This book would be another great one to just have in the classroom library for students to read if they choose. As a teacher, I would use this book as a choice for students who may be struggling with hard times that most students or young adults wouldn’t have to. Whether this was raising a young child as a high school student or having to work full time to support family, this book would be great for those who have additional burdens and struggles on them because it provides a character to which they can relate. This book is a great reminder that there are others in the world who may be in worse situations that we currently find ourselves.
As an activity for students who read this book, I would ask them to respond to the following prompt. “How much control over our own lives do we have and how much of our lives is up to fate? Use support from the book to support your answer.” The response to this prompt would lead to a fantastic discussion among students while also providing text support for their answers.