Andersen Press Andersen Press

Orbiting Jupiter wins the Warwickshire Year Nine Book Awards

16/12/2016 16:20:14

Gary D. Schmidt’s heartbreaking short novel about a young father has won the Warwickshire Year Nine Book Award.

Gary D. Schmidt’s heartbreaking short novel about a young father has won the Warwickshire Year Nine Book Award. 

This annual award aims to inspire year eight students throughout the summer months as they progress into year nine with books that challenge perceptions and generate discussion. Alongside Schmidt’s novel, the shortlist included One by Sarah Crossan, Maladapted by Richard Kurti and Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit. Students read all the shortlisted books and voted for their favourite. 

The ceremony was attended by 100 school pupils and took place at The Bridge House theatre in Warwick. Though Gary could not attend in person, he sent the following message to the Year Nine students:


‘Dear Members of the Warwickshire Schools Book Award Committee--
and to all those student readers who participated in the awards process--

Thank you so much for honouring Orbiting Jupiter with this amazing award.  This book began when I met a dozen boys who were incarcerated in a maximum security juvenile home way in the north of Michigan.  Their ages were twelve and thirteen.  They had not seen their parents in over a year.  They lived in cells for more than twelve hours a day.  

One of the boys said, "I write too," and I asked him what he wrote about.  "I write about the planets," he said.  "Jupiter is my favourite planet."  The kiddo's name is Jake--and he is Jack in this story.  He lives in a place where there are no windows.  When I got home, I sent him a poster of Jupiter and a book about the planets; they were all confiscated, because Jake is not allowed to have anything personal.

Behind him sat a kiddo whose name was Joseph.  He had dark hair, dark eyes.  He was a little bit smaller than average and sat with his arms folded.  "I write too," he said.  When I asked him what he wrote, he said, "It doesn't matter.  No one will ever read it."  He is Joseph in the book--though this is not his story.  I wish I could give that kiddo the cows he so deserves and needs.

In voting for this book, the readers of the Warwickshire Schools have expressed a kind of solidarity with those kids who live in cells, in facilities far in the north, who rarely have visitors, and who feel as if no one even knows they exist.  Now you do.  And now they know that you know something about their stories.  You cannot believe how important that kind of knowing is.  

In the end, an author can only hope that a book will join the writer and the reader in a kind of empathetic understanding about the broken world we live in.  I feel that kind of joining tonight, and lacking better words to express how grateful I am to you readers, and to the members of the committee, I can only say thank you for listening to this story, and for affirming it through this award.



Find out more about the awards here.