After months on an Oregon farm, Jupiter, an 11-year-old white girl, can’t wait to resume her musician family’s nomadic journey—until she learns that Edom, 7, an adopted cousin from Ethiopia, will be taking her brother’s place and their destination is not the open road but a house in Portland.
Jupiter’s father left the family three years ago, but the mythology he fostered lives on: pursuit of adventure and the unknown trump the quotidian grind of school and work. They’ve lived by busking (Mom’s a cellist), gleaning, and trading skills for food and shelter. When these haven’t sufficed, Mom’s loyal friend Topher’s been there to bail them out. This time, Jupiter believes, he’s bailed on them. She’s stuck in Portland with Mom and Edom, while Aunt Amy undergoes cancer treatment in San Francisco. Edom’s got her own issues: she never seems to sleep and, Jupiter feels, could learn a thing or two about sharing. United in their determination to leave Portland, the two hatch plans to earn money for bus tickets even as, despite themselves, they put down tentative roots, in more ways than one, in a lively, diverse neighborhood whose financially challenged yet generous denizens depend on tolerance and creativity. Occasionally, urban-foraging details and sustainable-living advocacy verge on the didactic, but the vivid characters and fascinating urban village they inhabit more than compensate, holding readers’ interest throughout.
A solid middle-grade family story. (Fiction. 10-13)