Review: Bluefish by Pat Schmatz


Bluefish by Pat Schmatz

Travis misses his home after moving with his grandfather but even more, he misses his dog.  He used to have lots of room to roam in the country, but he’s stuck in a small house with his alcoholic grandfather.  At his new school, he is nearly silent but loud Velveeta will not allow him to withdraw far.  She joins him at lunch after seeing Travis help out a boy being bullied, firmly adopting him and filling his silence with all of her words.  The two unlikely friends are both hiding secrets.  As the story progresses, the secrets are shared with the reader first and then with each other.  This story explores the meaning of friendship and how we can all be friends that help one another in our own unique way.

Schmatz’s writing is clean and clear.  She doesn’t fill the story with flowery language, instead exploring the story alongside the reader.  The book is filled with characters who are struggling, including both Travis and Velveeta.  Another example is Travis’ grandfather who is battling his addiction and trying to be a parent to Travis.  There is nothing perfect here, and the message is clear that perfection is not something that is necessary or needed.  It is the striving, the doing that matters.

The two main characters are well drawn and intriguing.  They are very similar to one another in many ways and yet so different in others.  Their struggles may not be the same, but the two definitely need one another to get through.  There are also other adults who help, including one incredible teacher and a librarian.  It is a joy to see two adults helping children written free of any didacticism. 

This powerful read offers great characters, no easy answers, and no grand solution of an ending.  It’s a book that is about the journey.  Appropriate for ages 11-14.

Reviewed from copy received from Candlewick Press.

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How Child Abuse Changes the Brain

wired science

Wired has a fascinating and haunting article on what happens to children’s brains when they are raised in violent households.  Their brains respond more like soldiers’ brains who have been exposed to warfare. 

In a study done by psychologist Eamon McCrory of University College London, 43 children who had been abused had their brains imaged by fMRI.  Their results were compared to 23 non-abused children who otherwise were comparable demographically.  The children were shown images of sad and angry faces and their brain reactions were observed. 

The children who were abused had a distinctive pattern of reaction to angry faces in the parts of the brain that process threat and pain. 

The hope is that these findings will help develop more effective treatments for the depression, aggression, and anxiety that plague those who have been abused. 

You may also want to read the Wired article on how poverty affects the brains of children.

2011 Goodreads Choice Awards

The 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards have been announced.  This is the third year they have done awards based on user voting.  So this will be a list of very popular titles mostly.  Goodreads is my go-to social media book site and I use it on a daily basis, something you know if you ever have clicked on an image or title on my blog, since they almost all take you directly to Goodreads (so you can add them to your reading list!) 

Perhaps one of the reasons I feel so at home at Goodreads is that they seem to have a lot of YA and children’s lit folks there.  In fact, the book of the year is a YA book.  So here are the top books for the YA and children’s, which include the top author and top book overall too:

Favorite Book of the Year and Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction

Divergent by Veronica Roth


Best Graphic Novel

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead


Best Middle Grade and Children’s

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan


Best Picture Book

When I Grow Up by Al Yankovic, illustrated by Wes Hargis


Best Young Adult Fiction

Where She Went by Gayle Forman


Best Author

Cassandra Clare