I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
When Jack meets his new foster brother, he already knows three things about him:
Joseph almost killed a teacher.
He was incarcerated at a place called Stone Mountain.
He has a daughter. Her name is Jupiter. And he has never seen her.
What Jack doesn’t know, at first, is how desperate Joseph is to find his baby girl. Or how urgently he, Jack, will want to help. But the past can’t be shaken off. Even as new bonds form, old wounds reopen. The search for Jupiter demands more from Jack than he can imagine.
This tender, heartbreaking novel is Gary D. Schmidt at his best.
You can tell all you need to know about someone from the way cows are around him.
This is Jack’s opinion concerning his new foster-brother, Joseph, who may have trouble with teachers and the other kids in school, but he is loved by Rosie the cow. Generally, I do find animals’ responses to people to say a bit at least about their mood. Horses certainly know whether you are paying attention or not (and will plant a big hoof on your foot if they are displeased with your lack of regard).
Milking cows, as Jack and Joseph do, is an intimate task. I learned to milk as a youngster, with a gentle old cow named Stubby. Stubby had her tail frozen off as a calf and so couldn’t whip you with it as you milked—a bonus for us apprentice milkmaids. I remember that my dad had twine tied by the other cows, so that he could capture that tail and avoid being slapped by the frequently-urine-soaked tassel at the end of it. And if a cow is unhappy with you, they will whip you with that tail and stomp their feet. Milking takes a while, crouched on a little stool, with your forehead pressed against the warm flank of a cow. If you aren’t calm at the start, you will be by the end—it is a meditative task, perfect for a young man who needs to calm down and contemplate his life as Joseph does.
I must confess, I have warned certain of my friends, “Dogs don’t like that guy—stay away from him.” This from a woman who is none too fond of dogs (mostly because they refuse to just be mildly friendly but insist on taking liberties). In Cuba at dinner one night, my friend suddenly asked me, “What’s wrong?” One of the stray dogs was under the table, determinedly licking my toes! Apparently I taste delicious, as excessive licking is one of several complaints I have about dogs. I’m not sure what that says about me, however.
This is a young adult novel—easily read in an afternoon and it depicts farm life extremely well. If I have any quibbles with it(show spoiler)
. To balance that, there are a variety of adults, many supportive, some jerks, just as in real life—giving the reader a sense that not everyone will be against them always. Generally, I would not hesitate to recommend it to young readers or their parents.