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Mrs. Carter’s Hot Read of the Week: Bluefish by Pat Schmatz

bluefishThis week’s Hot Read is Bluefish by Pat Schmatz. I loved this book and was sad to see it end.  The style of this book reminds me of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and while the issues are not the same, Travis is just as much an “outsider” as Ponyboy.  Travis and his grandfather have just moved to town, and Travis is having a lot of trouble fitting into eighth grade at his new school.  He’s lost his best friend, an old hound named Rosco.  In addition, Travis has trouble in school and has just about given up hope.  Travis continues to play the hiding game at school, hoping to just slide on through without being labeled the dumb kid again.

That’s not going to be so easy, though.  Mr. McQueen, Travis’s fourth period teacher, isn’t going to let Travis slip through the cracks any longer.  Then there’s Vida, Velveeta to her friends, who is as vivacious as Travis is quiet and unassuming.  Smart, laugh out loud funny, and often the center of attention, Velveeta is hiding some serious secrets of her own.  When Velveeta witnesses Travis committing a small act of kindness, she decides to get t0 know the new boy a bit better, and thus a tenuous friendship develops between the two seemingly opposite personalities.  I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but as Travis and Velveeta begin to trust one another with their secrets, they discover that facing and working their way through life’s ups and downs becomes a bit easier when you have a friend.

I loved Travis and Velveeta and admired their ability to keep on keeping on despite the obstacles they each had to overcome.  While the reviewer in the video below thinks Travis was a weaker character, I admired his quiet strength and will and felt he balanced Velveeta’s vivacious personality extremely well.  I highly recommend Bluefish for 5th grade readers and up. If you give Bluefish a try, I would love to hear what you think.


Bluefish in Brief:

Author:  Pat Schmatz

Genre:  Realistic

Setting: Small town Wisconsin, USA

Themes/Subject Matter: Bullying, Learning Disabilities, Alcoholism, Family, Death, Grief, Friendship

AR BL: 4.0

AR Points: 6.0

Alerts: Adolescent/middle school themes and speech, rare instances of cursing, one instance of an inappropriate gesture. middle school teasing and bullying in context

Highly Recommended: 5th Grade and Up (NHCA Library check-out is restricted to 5th graders and up)


  • 2010 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship
  • Josette Frank Award (Bank Street College of Education)
  • ALA Notable Children’s Book
  • Junior Library Guild Selection
  • Notable Children’s Book in the Language Arts (National Council of Teachers of English)
  • The Horn Book – Best of 2011
  • Crystal Kite Award (SCBWI Midwest)
  • Elizabeth Burr/Worzalla Award (Wisc Library Association)
  • Top 10 Indie NEXT List