Orbiting Jupiter

by Gary D. Schmidt

Paperback, 2017



Local notes

PB Sch




Clarion Books (2017), Edition: Reprint, 192 pages


"Jack, 12, tells the gripping story of Joseph, 14, who joins his family as a foster child. Damaged in prison, Joseph wants nothing more than to find his baby daughter, Jupiter, whom he has never seen. When Joseph has begun to believe he'll have a future, he is confronted by demons from his past that force a tragic sacrifice"--


Soaring Eagle Book Award (Nominee — 2018)
Young Hoosier Book Award (Nominee — Middle Grade — 2018)
Georgia Children's Book Award (Finalist — 2018)
Kentucky Bluegrass Award (Nominee — 2018)
Nutmeg Book Award (Nominee — Teen — 2018)
Iowa Teen Award (Nominee — 2018)
Green Mountain Book Award (Nominee — 2017)
Oregon Reader's Choice Award (Nominee — 2018)
Grand Canyon Reader Award (Nominee — 2018)
Yoto Carnegie Medal (Nominee — 2017)
Truman Readers Award (Nominee — 2018)
Virginia Readers' Choice (Nominee — Middle School — 2018)
Golden Archer Award (Nominee — 2018)
Black-Eyed Susan Book Award (Nominee — 2017)
UKLA Book Award (Shortlist — 2017)
Westchester Fiction Award (Winner — 2017)
Great Lakes Great Reads Award (Children's Books — 2016)
Volunteer State Book Award (Nominee — Middle School — 2018)
In the Margins Official List (Fiction — 2016)
Best Fiction for Young Adults (Selection — 2017)
Notable Children's Book (Older Readers — 2016)
Nerdy Book Award (Young Adult Literature — 2015)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

192 p.; 5.5 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member Perednia
Orbiting Jupiter is Gary Schmidt's latest YA novel. Told by 12-year-old Jack, it's the story of troubled teen Joseph. He became a father at 13 and, after spending time in juvie, has come to Jack's family farm as a foster child.

In this short novel, clocking in at less than 200 pages, Schmidt is a
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strong storyteller in capturing how a closed-up, hurting teen can begin to heal when a cow decides he's all right. The chores, a family with members who believe in each other and the changing of the seasons anchor the more outlandish aspects of the book.

Characterization and plot are not as strong as the positive aspects. School administration, young male athlete bullies, an abusive father, rich and distant parents, and a lost love are all cartoonish stereotypes. And they are the ones who drive the plot that beset Joseph with obstacles every time he starts to get over his horrid past.

Jupiter is the daughter Joseph longs for every day. Joseph also is a runner and the kind of kid who has tunnel vision when it comes to the people he feels he has a duty to. Those parts of his character also play into the way his story ends up.

The climax and end are even more outlandish than the set-up of a 13-year-old father who winds up in juvie.

There has to be a better way to write about troubled teens who find themselves in over their heads, harmed by school and legal systems that should protect all children.
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LibraryThing member kayceel
An ultimately manipulative story about an abused foster boy who's grieving. Lovely writing, but too many "tragic hero" tropes.
LibraryThing member Whisper1
Gary Schmidt is one of my favorite authors. While this book lacked the depth of some of his others, still it is worth reading. In this tale, Schmidt beautifully handles the situation of young Joseph who is a very troubled teen. Fourteen years of age and a father of a baby girl, he also has a very
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long history of detention home incarcerating and inability to follow rules.

When a loving family in Maine decide to take a chance and bring Joseph into their home, for the first time in his life, he is exposed to a "normal" home life. The family is very understanding and patient with him. There is a wonderful way in which Schmidt shows the healing of interactions with animals. And Joseph develops a very tender relationship with Rosie the cow.

When Joseph shares the fact that he loved the girl he impregnated and that there is a little girl in the world as a result of their union. His main goal in life is to be with Jupiter.

Joseph has a lot against him, some of which is his fault, but the fact that he has a worthless, abusive father certainly is out of his control. Sociologists would note that if Joseph had a better upbringing, perhaps the stint in a detention home would not have occurred.

He is intelligent; he knows vulnerability and the ache that results from it; he could have a future if only he could put the bad pieces of life behind and sew a new patch of goodness in the tapestry.

My only quarrel with the book is that the foster family seems to be too perfect. And, the reality is that children that have long, deep scars, do not heal overnight.

Still, Schmidt does continue to shine, and his books are magical.
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LibraryThing member ewyatt
Jack's family takes in Joseph, a 14 year old who has had a life full of hard knocks. He's spent time in juvie, removed from a home with an abusive father. He's a dad at 14 and has never seen his daughter, Jupiter. A quick read with lots of white space on the page. It's the story of the impact Jack
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and his family have had on Joseph's life and see Joseph start to open up.
What a heartbreaking story. It grabbed me as I began to care about these people and worry for them at the same time.
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LibraryThing member JRlibrary
Jack's family takes in a foster child, Joseph, who is 14 years old. He almost killed a teacher, he was incarcerated at a place called Stone Mountain and he has a daughter named Jupiter whom he is very anxious to find.
This is a fast read sure to grab the interest of those who like tender
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heartbreaking stories.
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LibraryThing member jenn88
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
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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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LibraryThing member michelleannlib
A heartbreaker but really well done. Beautiful book.
LibraryThing member fingerpost
Joseph is a deeply scarred 14 year old father who is sent to the Hurd's home as a foster child. Jack Hurd, two years younger, welcomes Jospeh as a brother right from the start, in spite of his troubled background.
The book focuses on two themes: Jack's intense loyalty to his foster brother, always
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"having his back," and Joseph's obsession with finding the daughter he knows he has, but has never seen. Her name is Jupiter.
"Orbiting Jupiter" is wildly different from Schmidt's "The Wednesday Wars." That Newbery Honor book was hilarious. This book is quite serious. The writing is flawless.
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LibraryThing member jothebookgirl
Jack, age 14, gets the news his parents are taking in a foster child, a boy Jack’s age who will share his room and chores on the farm. His parents are loving, patient, and thoughtful farmers. They will also both be going into sixth grade. But when Jack finds out Joseph had spent time in juvenile
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hall for trying to kill a teacher and that he is a father, Jack wonders what they’ve gotten themselves into. Joseph arrives nearly mute, his social worker warning that, because of what he’s been through in detention, he doesn’t like the color orange, to be touched, or to be approached from behind. But Joseph begins to thaws quickly, bonding with narrator, Jack, the last foster child the Hurd’s took in. Joseph share his tragic story: he fell in love with a well-to-do girl, and she became pregnant at 13. The baby, they named Jupiter, is now in foster care, too, and Joseph desperately wants to find her. There are no secrets that last very long in a small-town middle school, and word about Joseph soon travels through the halls, and bullies get to work. But Jack has Joseph’s back, even though it costs him. As time goes on, Jack learns Joseph’s whole, heart-breaking story and meets his abusive father. Then everything changes.
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LibraryThing member imtanner2
Terrific story about a family who takes in a boy who has had a troubled past and is trying to find a path to the future.
LibraryThing member acargile
What makes this novel so memorable is the tone created. It reads like a legend instead of realistic fiction. There's little character development in that the characters seem more like ideas to me.

Jack meets his foster brother and only knows that he almost killed a teacher, stayed at a place for
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difficult kids called Stone Mountain, and has a daughter named Jupiter. Jack and his parents represent good. They take a teen who no one wants and about whom rumors exist. They teach him to milk a cow. This milking time calms Joseph and allows him time with a cow that gives him quiet comfort, something Joseph has never had. No one has ever listened to Joseph, given him time, and gotten to know him and understand him.

School is unpleasant for Joseph. Jack agrees to walk to and from school in the extreme cold just to avoid the bus with the bullies who treat Joseph badly. He has several teachers who see the true Joseph just as Jack and his family do. Unfortunately, he is picked on by default by those who judge without knowing him. Joseph only wants to meet his daughter, but he's not allowed because he's fourteen years old.

This quiet novel evokes a cold climate both literally and figuratively. Joseph lives in the cold--sees and experiences little human warmth until this family. He is obsessed with finding his daughter, whom he loves. I say it reads like a legend because the characters exist in this cold atmosphere with good and "evil" characters. You really don't get to know the characters beyond what they are to represent. We have an implied lesson with this story. You won't feel as if you know these characters as you will feel pulled supernaturally into this world that orbits Jupiter. Like all Gary Schmidt novels, it is well written and worth your time to read. If he writes it, read it!
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LibraryThing member Dr_Cicle
From the first chapter, I was hooked on this book. Since the last book I read was a high fantasy, i was looking for a short contemporary and boy did I get one. This book is only 183 pages but it was an amazing book!

Setting/World Building:

This book takes place in a rural community that snows. Since
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i've never seen snow and have never lived in a rural area, I thought it was refreshing and nice to read in the summer heat.


Since this book was short, I thought that the plot was gonna be drawn out but in actuality, everything flowed very nicely. The only time I stopped reading was when I was too tired or when I was crying too much. (I cried twice).


The main characters Jack and Joseph were amazing! I fell in love with both of them. At first, Joseph wasn't my favorite until he told his back story, which made me love him so much more. There only character development came from Jack and Joseph but I didn't mind that. Since it's a shorter book, I didn't expect a whole lot of character development. One thing I thought was really interesting was that the author gave character to a few of the cows, which I loved.


The conflict in the story is really interesting and doesn't feel forced. The characters dealt with everything that was happening in a way that makes sense. I hate when characters in books make decisions that literally no one in the world would make. Even though the story didn't have a happy ending, I was still happy with how everything turned out.

Overall, I definitely think that this book deserves 5 stars. I think it will become one of my favorite books of the year and maybe of all time.
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LibraryThing member deslivres5
Heartbreaking YA fiction dealing with some very serious themes (teen pregnancy, juvenile detention, fostering, bullying). I thought I knew about half-way through how it was going to end, but I was a bit off.
LibraryThing member reader1009
middlegrade fiction--teen parenthood, abusive fathers and other issues that lead to juvenile detention, PTSD resulting from juvenile detention (Jack is in 6th grade, Joseph is in 8th). Another great story from Gary D. Schmidt, but I felt that Jack was unusually mature and level-headed for his age
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(even though, yes, he's had the benefit of wonderfully supportive parents) so I'm not sure it would resonate with actual kids.
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LibraryThing member ecataldi
This book borders between middle grade and teen fiction. It's got some heavy themes but is a very readable and emotional book. When Jack's parents tell him they are taking on a foster kid, he's excited. Then they follow up by saying that Joseph, the foster kid they are taking on, tried to kill a
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teacher, and even though he's only thirteen he has a daughter who he's never seen. They doesn't scare Jack though - he's excited to get to get to know Joseph. At first Joseph is quiet and rarely smiles. But as he becomes used to his new foster parents and the farm he starts to open up a little at a time. He milks the cows, reads, and starts to excel in school. How can he possibly have such a big and bad reputation?!? A very quick read that will engage readers.
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LibraryThing member smichellehos
A solid story throughout and an interesting premise. My only complaint is how the story ended... The final conflict felt too convenient, though it was easy enough to move past as the author already had me rooting for Joseph, Jack, and Jupiter.
LibraryThing member Beth.Clarke
Excellent quick read. Not quite Wednesday Wars, but good contemporary themes.
LibraryThing member foggidawn
Things Jack knows about his new foster brother Joseph: he's 14 -- barely two years older than Jack. He's been to reform school and a juvenile corrections center, where terrible things happened. And he has a daughter that he's never seen. When Joseph comes to live on the farm with Jack and his
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parents, he's jumpy and sullen at times. He's targeted by the school bullies. And all he wants is to see his daughter. Joseph begins to trust his new family, but can he really move beyond the events in his past?

This is a touching and tragic story. Schmidt doesn't pull any punches, but he has the writing skill to keep the story from slipping toward the maudlin. If you enjoy this sort of realistic YA fiction, this is a good example of the genre.
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(160 ratings; 4.2)
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