Joseph stood with his back against the wall. When the cows turned and looked at him, they didn’t do a thing. Not even Dahlia. They kept pulling on the hay and chewing, like they do. The means they thought he was okay (p 5-6).
Jackson is a sixth grader at Eastham Middle School when his family agrees to foster Joseph on their farm in Maine. Joseph is an eighth-grader with a troubled past: an abusive father, a stint in juvenile detention after assaulting a teacher, and a daughter, Jupiter, whom he is not allowed to see.
Shunned by his classmates, Joseph’s fecund mind and athletic strength garners him favor with some, but not all, of his teachers. Jack is his lone stalwart friend.
Jackson, haunted by a desire to be with his daughter and traumatized by his rough experiences at juvie, is so tenderly and hauntingly rendered. Though the world seems to be conspiring against his every chance at some sliver of happiness, Joseph is determined. And Jack, not surprisingly, has his back.
Another gem by Schmidt. Highly recommended.
If you enjoy this, I recommend: The First Part Last by Angela Johnson, Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt, and Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord.
School Library Journal has also given it a starred review.