Publishers Weekly Review
Joseph Brook, 14, has been dealt a hand so bad that he deserves to win the foster family lottery, which he does, delivered into the care of the Hurds-loving, patient, thoughtful farmers. He 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 thaws quickly, bonding with narrator, Jack, the last foster child the Hurds took in. Within weeks, Joseph shares his tragic history: he fell in love with a well-to-do girl, and she became pregnant at 13. The baby, Jupiter, is now in foster care, too, and Joseph desperately wants to find her. The plot can be heavy-handed, but Schmidt's writing is so smooth and graceful that is easy to empathize with Joseph, who is victimized repeatedly-by his father, by adults who write him off before they meet him, by bullies who see an easy target. It's a powerful story about second chances, all the more devastating because not everyone gets one. Ages 10-14. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal Review
Gr 6 Up-This contemporary story feels taut and austere, eschewing the humorous episodes that buoy Schmidt's earlier books. Jackson Hurd, a taciturn sixth grader, narrates the arrival to his family's farm of Joseph, a jumpy foster kid two years his senior. The author makes milking cows a substantial presence throughout the novel, and the steady rhythm of farm life coupled with the Hurd family's stolid acceptance calm Joseph enough to unveil his story. The straightforward narration-Schmidt's colloquial style is tinged here with a somber tone-proves integral to balancing the potential melodrama in the catalog of miseries Joseph has endured by age 13. He has suffered familial and institutional abuse, fathered a daughter he's never been allowed to see, and lost the baby's beloved mother. The novel initially takes the shape of a redemption story, as Joseph begins to imagine a future for himself through the Hurds' support and the persistent attention of a few dedicated teachers (readers of the author's previous books will appreciate the character connections here). While Joseph inches past his traumatic history into a new middle school existence, Jack's commitment to the older boy prompts his own evolution. Schmidt displays his talent for character development as Jack grows more deliberate and active in defense of Joseph, with a burgeoning comprehension of his own ethics of behavior. But further tragedy follows this hopeful period for both boys, though just the right details are included to keep this heartrending story palatable. VERDICT The matter-of-fact narrative voice ensures that the tragic plot never overwhelms this wrenching tale of growth and loss.-Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NY © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
*Starred Review* Masterful is the word to describe Schmidt's latest, the deeply moving story of a 14-year-old 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. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: From Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (2004) to The Wednesday Wars (2007) to Okay for Now (2011), Schmidt rarely disappoints and this one is a highlight.--Cart, Michael Copyright 2015 Booklist