Full Text Reviews:
Bulletin for the Center... - 10/01/2011 Travis misses his dog, Rosco, who has been Travis’ family since his parents died when he was three. But Rosco is gone, and Travis and his grandfather had to leave their beloved home in the woods and move to a town where Grandpa could get a job and attend his AA meetings. On the first day of school, an offhand act of kindness on Travis’ part attracts the attention of the outspoken Velveeta, who sits with him at lunch and tries her obstreperous best to draw him out. Velveeta has a grief of her own, however, as her elderly neighbor, who had been like a grandfather to her and softened the hard edges of her life with her alcoholic mother, has passed away. She senses in Travis a kindred spirit, even though neither one talks about what they are feeling, and their unaffected friendship attracts a third outsider to their group, a smart, undersized kid named Bradley. Soon, one of Travis’ teachers discovers he can’t read and persuades him to give it one more chance. Without a trace of sentimentality, Schmatz configures her little cast of characters into a genuinely moving story of growing compassion and interdependence, as Travis helps Bradley cope with bullies, Velveeta and Travis work out their mutual crush, Grandpa confesses to his role in Rosco’s disappearance, and Travis learns to read with the help of Velveeta and his teacher. The intertextual reference to Zusak’s The Book Thief (BCCB 5/06) is an effective one on multiple levels; through that title, Velveeta learns what’s going on with Travis as he circles words in his book, and the emotional undercurrent of love and community between people shadowed by loss is remarkably similar between that very big book and this very small one. Readers seeking emotional warmth, congenial humor, and an affirmation of forgiveness and friendship will cozy up to these characters. KC - Copyright 2011 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
School Library Journal - 12/01/2011 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 - Copyright 2011 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.