November 2011 Indie Next List
“I loved this story about unlikely friends, each lonely and trapped by labels - trailer trash, brainy dork, and bluefish. I cared deeply about these characters, who are struggling not to be defined by their past expectations, and I cheered for their unconventional teacher who provoked them into seeing their future possibilities. A great book for fans of Katherine Hannigan and Gary Schmidt.”
— Ellen Davis, Dragonwings Bookstore, Waupaca, WI
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.
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)