Bluefish by Pat Schmatz
Author: Pat Schmatz
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: September, 2011
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Young Adult Novel
Goodreads Summary: 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 alcoholic grandpa, a new school, and the dreaded routine of school. 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.
What I Think: This is one of those books that makes me proud to be a teacher. Students like Travis is the reasons why I became a teacher and I hope that I am a teacher like Mr. McQueen who ultimately changes Travis’s life. And not only is this book a love story to good teachers, it is a love story to books and the written word. But it is also about grief and family and fitting in. I think the quotes below will really show you the power of this book.
Read Together: Grades 6 to 12
Read Alone: Grades 7 to 12
Read With: Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Schooled by Paul Langan, Just Juice by Karen Hesse, Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Snatch of Text:
“McQueen stepped in front of the room. ‘I’m supposed to teach you how to take the standardized reading tests so you won’t be the child left behind. But because I’m subversive’ -he turned and wrote the word on the board as he talked- ‘(look it up if you don’t know what it means, and it will be on the vocabulary text next week), I am actually going to try to teach you a passion for the written word.'” (p. 9)
“Grandpa always said a good dog needs work, and the night Travis’s mom went to the hospital and didn’t come back, Rosco found his job. Travis’s dad died in an accident three months later, and then Rosco forgot all about being anyone’s dog. He became Travis’s mom and dad and a couple of brothers thrown in. That’s what Grandpa said.” (p. 37)
“I couldn’t eat because the book made me cry so hard, I couldn’t even breathe. Connie said to keep reading and keep breaking, like that was easy. Tears and snot just about came out of my butt, I cried so hard. After I finished the book, Connie fixed up a spot in the study room with a pillow. I told her __ being dead is like a long-fingered claw that keeps scratching at my heart. She said she knows that claw. She said grief is a rough ride but the only way through it is through it. Then she told me to take a nap. Liesel the book thief was tough. I ‘m not tough. I’m not anything.” (p. 171)
“I’ve been thinking about the whole sitter-upper thing that McQueen talked about from The Book Thief. The madre is not a sitter-upper. She’s a lier-downer. But Travis is a sitter-upper. If it wasn’t for him, I would have turned into a lier-downer after __ died. Or for sure after Sylvia ___. I don’t want to be a lier-downer. Even if I never get out of Russet for my whole life. I’ll be a sitter-upper waitress if I have to.” (p. 217)
Mentor Text for: Characterization, Setting, Point of View, Author’s Purpose
Writing Prompts: Travis is afraid to ask for help with his reading. What is something you struggle with that you don’t like to admit?
Topics Covered: Reading, Books, Family, Death, Grief, Friendship
I *heart* it
Kellee Moye is a middle school reading teacher in Orlando, Florida where her goal is to help each and every child in her class find the book(s) that they connect with. She hopes that she is her students’ Mr. McQueen. Kellee can be found on Twitter @KelleeMoye and blogs with Jen (@mentortexts) at http://www.teachmentortexts.com