Bluefish by Pat Schmatz, Candlewick, 2011
I had no idea what to expect when I opened the cover of this book. Bluefish? What is a bluefish? I might not have picked it up at all except it’s on the DCF list for next year and it was in the half of the list I was talking about at the DCF booktalk at the Norwich Library.
I’m so glad I read it! I loved the characters and how their lives intertwined. I loved the realistic look at school and bullying and friendship. And I loved the literary references to other books readers would love.
Eighth grader Travis has been living with his grandfather since his parents died when he was 3. They’ve just moved from a house in the country to a cramped place in town. Travis misses his faithful old hound who disappeared right before they moved, his grandfather drinks too much, and he’s starting a new school.
This year is different. His grandfather has stopped drinking and is paying attention to Travis’s schoolwork. Travis meets Velveeta–a scarf-wearing movie-watching 8th grade girl with secrets, Bradley Whistler–a nerdy picked-on student, and Mr. McQueen–a teacher who doesn’t accept failure as an option. Secrets come out and life changes for each of these characters. Excellent, excellent book!
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, Wendy Lamb Books, 2009
This isn’t really an “old” book to fit my recommending one new and one old, but the way it uses another book is similar, so I thought I’d put these two together.
Sixth graders Miranda and Sal live in New York City and know their way around and how to stay safe. But, there are the notes she finds in her pocket—notes that tell her things no one should be able to know—and then Sal is punched by a stranger and stops talking to Miranda. As Miranda helps her mother study to be on the $20,000 Pyramid show, she tries to work out who is leaving the notes, how this person knows the future, and what is going on with Sal. And everything is tied to another book in a great way.
Don’t miss this book—or the other book mentioned in it!