Monday, June 5, 2017

Blog Tour: Planet Jupiter by Jane Kurtz

For 11 year-old Jupiter and her teenage brother Orion, life on the road busking is what they know and love, traveling from place to place in their van with their parents, singing, finding whatever they need, and/or trading work for food and shelter. Now, though, dad has struck out on his own, and Jupiter, Orion, and their mom have been staying with Madame Marie’s Rainbow Farm doing chores for far too long, as far as Jupiter is concerned. She is definitely ready to get back to what she loves doing, busking and traveling. 

But now, mom has brought home a cousin Jupiter didn’t even know she had - Edom, 7, is a young Ethiopian girl adopted by her Aunt Amy. Aunt Amy has come from Africa after being diagnosed with cancer to receive chemotherapy in Los Angeles. So, rather than getting on the road seeking adventure, Jupiter, Edom and mom will be living in a house in Portland, and Orion will remain at Madame Marie’s. And Jupiter suspects that Topher, an old family friend, is behind everything. Topher has always helped, bailing the family out whenever they needed it, but maybe it’s really because of his feelings for mom.

Needless to say, Jupiter isn’t happy about having Edom around, sharing her with her mother, or the fact that there will be no traveling for a while. However, she is pleased to learn, after getting settled in the Portland house, she and Edom discover they both have something they want to do - for Jupiter, it’s getting out of Portland and busking again; for Edom, it’s getting to Los Angeles to see her adopted mother. And so the girls come up with a plan, and both set about acquiring money any way they can to buy needed bus tickets.  

And yet, without their realizing it, they are beginning to feel like part of a family and part of the neighborhood, which consists of a diverse group of kind, caring people who depend on each other in so many ways. But when Jupiter gets mad at Edom, she runs aways with all their savings, and Jupiter knows exactly where she has gone. Will she find Edom in time, or has she taught Edom how to avoid being discovered on the road so well, that even Jupiter won’t be able to find her?

Planet Jupiter is a very sweet story about learning to accept change, and about the importance of family, friends, and community. Jupiter has always prided herself on being like a planet and traveling her own orbit, but when Edom joins the family, all that changes for her. 

Jupiter is also still dealing with the fact that her father left and her mother may have a new love interest, who seems to be the recipient of the anger she should be directing at her father. Yet, perhaps because her mother has accepted her father’s leaving as though it is perfectly understandable, given who he is, Jupiter never really seems to comes to term with her father, but does learn to accept Topher.

I thought it was interesting that Edom was from Africa, and yet, nothing was made of the fact that she is black. There is not crisis or conflict about it, and the people that the family comes into contact with just accept who they all are, and that’s it.   
The story is told in the first person from Jupiter’s point of view. She’s experienced at living a nomadic life and really knows how to get along with people when she wants to, but because all of it is unfamiliar to Edom, it is a opportunity to go into detail about the life of a traveling performer for the benefit of young readers without sounding didactic. Interestingly enough, not much performing is done in the novel, but one of the things I really liked is that each chapter begins with the words to a song that is a foreshadowing of what is to come. 

Planet Jupiter is funny, sad, and poignant about an appealing family living a life very different from most of its readers, the themes are familiar and will definitely appeal to young reader.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was provided to me by the publisher, Greenwillow Press

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