4.5 6
by Pat Schmatz, Luke Daniels, Kate Rudd

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Thirteen-year-old Travis has a secret: he can't read. But a shrewd teacher and a sassy girl are about to change everything in this witty and deeply moving novel.

Travis is missing his old home in the country, and he's missing his old hound, Rosco. Now there's just the cramped place he shares with his well-meaning but alcoholic grandpa, a new school,


Thirteen-year-old Travis has a secret: he can't read. But a shrewd teacher and a sassy girl are about to change everything in this witty and deeply moving novel.

Travis is missing his old home in the country, and he's missing his old hound, Rosco. Now there's just the cramped place he shares with his well-meaning but alcoholic grandpa, a new school, and the dreaded routine of passing when he's called on to read out loud. But that's before Travis meets Mr. McQueen, who doesn't take "pass" for an answer—a rare teacher whose savvy persistence has Travis slowly unlocking a book on the natural world. And it's before Travis is noticed by Velveeta, a girl whose wry banter and colorful scarves belie some hard secrets of her own. With sympathy, humor, and disarming honesty, Pat Schmatz brings to life a cast of utterly believable characters—and captures the moments of trust and connection that make all the difference.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A lovely, understated book that celebrates the possibility of a kind and humane friendship between an eighth-grade girl and boy...this novel is also an ode to the significance of reading in the lives of young people and to a teacher who knows the power literature can wield. Unique and original, believable and poignant, this is a book with power of its own.
—The Horn Book (starred review)

Readers seeking emotional warmth, congenial humor, and an affirmation of forgiveness and friendship will cozy up to these characters.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)

Despite the weighty problems the characters face-grief, alcoholism, and bullying among them-Bluefish is a lively, often-humorous, and ultimately hopeful page-turner. It has all the hallmarks of a classic contemporary young adult issues novel. It's packed with memorable and believable characters and powered by the prospect of redemption and just a hint of romance.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

Children's Literature - Naomi Milliner
Travis is a lot of things: an eighth grader at a new school; an orphan living with his crotchety alcoholic grandpa; a boy mourning the loss of a beloved dog; and a self-proclaimed "bluefish" (a derogatory term based on a Dr. Seuss character). Travis is also the keeper of a big secret which is revealed halfway through the book—he cannot read. Two other pivotal characters also have secrets: Grandpa and a sassy, precocious girl known as Velveeta. On the surface, vivacious Velveeta and troubled, tongue-tied Travis share little in common; however, both have experienced, and are trying to cope with, significant loss. Over the course of the story, their fledgling friendship is as dizzying as a rollercoaster, but ultimately delivers a satisfying ride. The narrative technique Schmatz employs is unusual but effective: the chapters alternate between third person Travis and short, first-person Velveeta passages. Both characters are well-drawn, and Velveeta is as memorable and original as her name. Although the themes of loss and secrets are a bit heavy-handed, Travis' journey to literacy is an interesting and rewarding one. In addition, both Travis and Velveeta learn that, even though their loved ones have died, nothing can undo the significance they had, or continue to have, in their lives. This powerful, reassuring message of hope is reason enough to recommend this book. Reviewer: Naomi Milliner
School Library Journal
Gr 7–9—Eighth-grader Travis, tall and quiet, is beginning his first year in a new school. When he helps out a student being bullied, this rare act of middle-school kindness impresses an unusual, witty, and talkative girl named Vida—or Velveeta, as she prefers to be called. She befriends the strong-but-silent newcomer and tries to plumb his mysterious depths—and maybe grub a free dessert or two during lunch. Velveeta and Travis have the same reading class, where compassionate Mr. McQueen quickly recognizes that Travis has a serious reading deficit and suggests that he visit him for extra tutoring. Velveeta soon guesses what Travis is doing in these early-morning sessions and offers to help him. Eventually, he reluctantly agrees. But Travis's reading problem is only one of the deeper secrets that this unlikely pair will gradually begin to share. Despite the weighty problems the characters face—grief, alcoholism, and bullying among them—Bluefish is a lively, often-humorous, and ultimately hopeful page-turner. It has all the hallmarks of a classic contemporary young adult issues novel. It's packed with memorable and believable characters and powered by the prospect of redemption and just a hint of romance.—Jeffrey Hastings, Highlander Way Middle School, Howell, MI
School Library Journal - Audio
Gr 7–9—Travis is forced to move with his grandfather from the small Wisconsin town that is the only home he has ever known. On top of that, his pet dog has disappeared and his alcoholic grandpa insists they move immediately, leaving the dog behind. Travis has always struggled with schoolwork and has a difficult time talking to anyone. At his new middle school, he meets feisty, funky classmate Velveeta and a determined teacher who realizes that Travis has a learning disability and is much more than just a stupid "bluefish." Pat Schmatz's novel (Candlewick, 2011) is brought to life by Luke Daniels and Kate Rudd. Daniels captures Travis's sweet, shy demeanor with his deliberate speech pattern and has listeners cheering him on from the beginning. His gruff voicing of Travis's grandpa is perfect as well. Kate Rudd narrates the Velveeta passages that are in the form of letters to her dead neighbor and mentor. Rudd's sarcastic tone mixed with just the right amount of sympathy makes Velveeta a real person. Filled with believable characters, this novel will capture the hearts of middle school listeners.—Shari Fesko, Southfield Public Library, MI
Kirkus Reviews

A young teen loner graduallylearns to acceptthe friendship of an outspoken girl in thisproblem novel filled with likable, idiosyncratic characters.

Travis is filled with sullen resentment toward his recovering alcoholic grandfather, who moved them away from their old house despite Travis's devastation having to leave behind his lost dog, Rosco. At his new school, Travis is surprised to land on the radar of confident, kindVelveeta, and he increasingly looks forward to her friendly overtures each day, even as he worries that she might discover a secret of which he's deeply ashamed.In the meantime, Velveeta struggleswith familytrouble of herown and with the loss of a dear friend. A cast of richly developed characters peoples this work of contemporary fiction, told in the third person from Travis' point of view, with first-person vignettes from Velveeta's perspective peppered throughout. An ongoing reference to Markus Zusak's The Book Thief (2006) serves the themes of this novel well. Both teens have adults outside of their families whom they are able to trust, but at times these adults feel a little too heart-of-goldidealized—sadly, it's somehow hard to picture a public librarian actually givinga key to the building to a kid whose home isn't a safe place. Fortunately, these clichéd moments are brief.

A story rife with unusual honesty andhope. (Fiction. 12-16)

Product Details

Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 5.50(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
12 - 15 Years

Meet the Author

Pat Schmatz is the author of three previous books: Mrs. Estronsky and the U.F.O., Mousetraps, and Circle the Truth, which was named a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year. She was awarded the 2010 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship for Bluefish. About the book, she says, “I started with Travis, a loner with a kind heart and an eye for beauty. He loved the woods and swamp and had no desire to move out. But when Velveeta’s colorful scarves caught his eye—and mine—all three of us began a walk through the world of possibility.” Pat Schmatz lives in rural Wisconsin.

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Bluefish 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
epicrat More than 1 year ago
Travis has spent his high school years with his head down and staying off everyone's radar. When he moves to a new school in a somewhat small town, it seems that he attracts attention like a flame does for a moth. The town bullies see a new threat; the basketball players see a new ally; the rejects see a possible savior; the girls think he's cute but dumb; and the English teacher see a boy who somehow got left behind. Travis succeeds in keeping everyone away except for the colorful Velveeta who refuses to leave him alone until she discovers what makes him tick. I found Bluefish a rather nice read that will pair well with a lazy, summer day in the park if you need a break from those intense paranormal or moving contemporary reads. The two main characters - Travis and Velveeta - were a little hard to befriend at first. They seemed closed-off, and they each had quite the backstory that unfolded chapter by chapter. Primarily Bluefish was Travis's story, but Velveeta sneaks herself in at the end of each chapter with a journal entry - and honestly I fell more in love with Velveeta's quirky voice and wished I had seen more of it! As far as illiteracy goes, I was intrigued with how the English teacher tried to motivate Travis to learn - which, in turn, makes me want to read The Book Thief which got mentioned quite a few times.
Paige2 More than 1 year ago
Bluefish by Pat Schmatz tells the story of a boy named Travis who has a learning disability and is entering into a new school. When he enters the school he becomes hesitant that he would never be able to make any connections with the people in his school, especially due to his inability to read. However, as school begins he encounters a girl named Velveeta who befriends him and makes him feel right at home. He also receives reading help from his teacher, Mr. McQueen. Together, Mr. McQueen and Velveeta help Travis with an activity that helps him learn to read. This activity involved Travis reading a book and circling words he didn’t know. Each week, he would learn the words he circled and then read the entire book to Mr. McQueen at the end of the week. Velveeta helped in this process by sitting down with Travis each afternoon and helping him go through the words he didn’t know. As a perspective middle school teacher, I would recommend this book because it is helpful with the inclusion of students with special needs into a 4-8 classroom because it allows the other students in the classroom to see the results of being respectful to students with learning disabilities. In this book, Velveeta was not judgmental of Travis’s inability to read, but helped him, and when Velveeta was going through trouble, Travis was there to help her. This shows that even though a student may have a disability, they are still a person and their feelings should be considered as well. Another example of this is when Travis developed a crush on Velveeta after she had befriended him and helped him with his reading. Aside from reading I would also use a in class, hands-on activity to share what it is like for a student with a learning disability. As a class, I would have the students split up into groups and give each group a paper that had misspelled words on it and many errors, I would have them look at the paper and try to translate what it says. After they have tried over and over, I would have them turn their attention back to me and explain that this is what life is like all the time with a person with learning disabilities and so they can see what it is like in their shoes and make them appreciate them more as they enter the classroom.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book! I really can relate to it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stayed up half the night to finish this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would definetly suggest it but it wasnt as great as i thought it would be.