I don’t know quite what I was expecting when I started this book, but it certainly wasn’t this book. The edition that I have has a blue cover with a blue fish on it, and of course it made me think of ‘One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish’. And that is important, but not for a while, unless you get it early on.
Travis has had to move, with his grandfather, to a smaller house and a new school. He has new teachers to get used to and new peers. He is also missing his dog, Rosco.
On his first day at the new school a shoe lands next to him, while he is trying to open his locker. As he tries to work out what has happened, he notices a kid walking past, with only one shoe on. ‘A head bobbed down the hall toward him, dipping with a one shoe walk. The guy was small, and Travis figured him for a seventh grader, maybe even sixth. He had deep brown skin and hair cropped too short to kink, and he carried a nice new over-the-shoulder book bag. He was very tucked in and tidy except for his shoeless left foot. His right foot wore a new white Nike.’ Travis ‘bumps’ the shoe into the kids hand and gets on with his day. Staying in the background.
Until he meets Velveeta, ‘My public calls me Velveeta’, a girl in his reading class, Room 134, and then the self-proclaimed ‘subversive’ Mr McQueen (Considering Velveeta’s passion for film, I’m guessing the name McQueen is an allusion). Mr McQueen reaches Travis in a way that other teachers haven’t, ‘a short, round balding guy with glasses came out of his office at the front of the room, spotted Travis and walked over.’
What I love about this book is its richness and its natural reference to so many books and so many films. One after the other, little jewels are spilt throughout. Velveeta and Travis take their turns in telling their stories and you care equally about each.
I highly recommend this book!