My family moved right after my fifth birthday - into the house my parents still live in. So, being the "new kid" at school - except in first grade when we were ALL new kids - was a trauma I never experienced. Being new in a group situation, like the first day of camp, or dance lessons, or a scout troop - that was enough for me. Two of the books I read this week centered around the "new kid" in school.
Bluefish by Pat Schmatz alternates between the third person story of Travis, who is the new kid at school and the first person journal of a girl, Vida, who embraces her nickname of Velveeta. On the first day of school, Travis does a kind act as secretly as possible. Velveeta sees it and decides to become Travis' friend. The shortest, and smartest, boy in their class rounds out this trio of middle school oddities. Together they help each other overcome their difficulties, bear their burdens and face a brighter future because of it.
By alternating the voices, Schmatz keeps this book from becoming a downer. Travis has lived with his grandfather from the age of three. Vida has lost her best friend, an elderly neighbor. This book could be a handbook on dealing with grief but the characters are so different; they have such different strengths, that humor creeps in. Bradley, who is the smart kid, is the almost normal foil that evens out this story of struggling to find one's place - a common plight for teenagers.
There is also a little tiny bit of evangelizing for literacy. Those of you who read a lot will enjoy the references but they are sprinkled in with a light hand so, if you don't read a lot, they don't spoil the story.
Part of me wants to tell you what Travis' secret is. But I want you to read the book. And doing your own detective work will make the book more enjoyable.
This book is written for the middle school and above market - ages 11 through 14, I'd say. Adults who work with these ages will enjoy the book as well - or readers who enjoy books about friendships and growth. So that's almost everybody.
Two more books to go; The Predicteds by Christine Seifert, and an excellent portrayal of a tragic accident from WWII, Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff. I will let the Chobani Cup Oracle decide which book is reviewed tomorrow.