Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Bluefish by Pat Schmatz
Author: Pat Schmatz
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: YA, realistic fiction
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.
One fish. Two fish. Red fish. Blue fish. As a teacher, I find that a cute and witty name for groups in a classroom. Just like any other creative name to keep track of the groups. But never would I have thought of using them as names for kids in certain reading levels. That is just too easy of a way to segregate students and it's down right harsh.
I can see how Travis links his deficiency to the name of a title of a Dr. Seuss favorite. That label has stayed with him throughout his school hopping no matter what the name of the group is. You see, Travis can't read. It is demeaning to a child and is in no way encouraging to them. I love that Schmatz defines this, but shows how one student was able to slowly overcome. To describe such a teacher as McQueen who defies the odds and uses literature to fight past demons is amazing. As you read, you see the walls in Travis' life begin to break down as he learns to trust a teacher and fellow classmates for the first time in years. He learns to channel his anger and forgive others. There are so many lessons to be learned in this novel and all were tied perfectly to the character and finished with such grace.
I found the novel easy to follow with such descriptive words that you truly felt like you were walking with Travis in his life. The is a switch in point of view between Travis and Velveeta during each chapter. At first, I found it confusing, but once I realized what the author was doing, I found it inspiring. When reading Travis' side, it was done in third person p.o.v. so the reader could sense his emotions, but not grasp fully. It was more the point of witnessing his change. We learned about Velveeta by seeing a close side of her reading into her journal entries of the day. Her summary of events, her confusions, and her struggles.
My final review: a great story for middle school and wonderful for group reading in the classroom.