Bluefish by Pat Schmatz (2011)

“You know how sometimes you don’t know something is stupid until it falls out of your mouth and then it’s too late?”
Travis didn’t have an answer for that one, since he usually kept his stupid thoughts in his own head (p 57-8).

BluefishOne fish. Two fish. Red fish. Travis. The stupid bluefish. In a new town, Travis hopes to escape his label, but he doesn’t expect to. His Grandpa, a recently recovered alcoholic, is difficult to live with. There’s not much Travis cares about now his dog Rosco is missing. Then Velveeta takes an interest in him.

Velveeta is sharp-tongued and observant. Humorous, but with secrets of her own that we learn through letters to someone named Calvin.

Bluefish is a character story and a good one at that. Travis is illiterate until his new English teacher uses unique methods to engage and teach him. With copy of Haunt Fox in tow, Travis begins to set right the neglect he suffered. Velveeta connects with Travis while reading The Book Thief – sometimes helping, sometimes hindering – and learning plenty about herself in the process.

This is a quick read at a little over 200 pages and it leans a little on two established titles, but carves a niche of its own. Characters are revealed slowly (but not too slowly) and subtly (the only way I like it!) until we are endeared to them, flaws and all. The ending is abrupt but I find I liked it. The characters still have obstacles to face but its real. Life doesn’t tie things up in nice little bows, but personal discoveries will carry Travis and Velveeta through to another day and they may actually find themselves looking forward to it.

This is a review of an advance reader copy provided by the publisher, Candlewick, via NetGalley. Read the Kirkus review.

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One thought on “Bluefish by Pat Schmatz (2011)

  1. Pingback: Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (2015) | wordstocking

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