Gary D. Schmidt
Narrator: Christopher Gebauer
Recorded Books, 2015
Genre: realistic fiction, young adult, family
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
What It's All AboutWhen fourteen year old Joseph comes to live with Jack and his family, he's angry and scared, and wants nothing more than to see his daughter, Jupiter. Told through the eyes of Jack, who is in sixth grade and tries to help his foster brother adjust to life in their small town, we get to know Joseph and his story. All he wants is to love his daughter Jupiter, but he's only fourteen, in the eighth grade, and no one will listen to him, no one will give him a safe place. Joseph finally begins to feel at home and safe with Jack and his family, but just then his old life comes reeling back at him.
ReviewI cried multiple times during this book, which is unfortunate because I only listened to it while I was walking or running and I'm sure I looked strange. Joseph's story is tragic, which you can infer right off the bat, but when you find out everything he has been through--it will break your heart.
Gary Schmidt does an excellent job telling Joseph's story. Because the story is told through the eyes of twelve year old Jack, we don't get to know everything about Joseph, just what he's willing to tell Jack. Jack has lived a pretty privileged life compared to Joseph, and although he never really seems shocked by anything he learns, it still seems very new to him. Hanging out with Joseph leads him to being late on a regular basis, finding himself on the assistant principal's radar, and jumping into fights with other boys. But Jack also knows what it means to be loyal to someone. He understands that and believes that the acceptable "right thing to do" isn't always the actual right thing to do. And he follows that.
Joseph's story truly is tragic in so many ways. He is only fourteen, in the 8th grade, and he is a father. A father who has not been allowed to see his daughter and has lost his first love. He is a child whose own father treated him poorly, to say the least. He has spent time juvenile detention centers and jail. We see how young Joseph is in his actions and his choices and his thoughts, but sometimes it's easy to forget that because he's been through so much and has experienced more in the world than Jack. In the end, though, Jack is the one who seems to be more mature and older than twelve by many years.
I don't know if I would recommend this to my sixth grade students because there is some pretty heavy stuff that Joseph has been through. A more mature sixth grader might be able to handle it with guidance, but I would recommend it to older students. If you're a parent looking for some reading suggestions, I would read this first and make the decision on whether your child could handle the subject matter. There is no sex on the page, but it's obviously understood since he's a father and some of this horrible experiences he has had are alluded to and mentioned as well.
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