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 well-meaning but alcoholic grandpa, a new school, and the dreaded routine of passing when he’s called on to read out loud. 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.
Though this was written about eighth graders, I found the style to be delightful and the characters compelling.
The story was mostly written from a third person omniscient point of view from Travis's perspective, but every chapter had something from Velveeta's perspective. This worked quite quaintly. The sections were short enough that they didn't hinder. Velveeta's voice was so, well, Velveeta, and it really helped to build up her character.
I felt at points that the characters were a little too mature for eighth graders, but then I realized that I was wrong and that yes, in eighth grade it really is important who one goes to the dance with. Their actions were very real and really reminded me of what it was like to be that age.
I didn't even notice that Travis was disabled, just that he hadn't been taught in the right ways for him. He was just a regular kid with regular problems, and I felt him so hard when he had trouble admitting his struggles. His teacher was very admirable.
The strongest aspect of the story was definitely the writing. Schmatz definitely had a compelling style and her words were both simple yet captivating, and she cleverly crafted his story.
I don't commonly find stories about middle schoolers strong, but this one was quite fascinating. With its strong writing, I highly recommend it for anyone in the age group.