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Thirteen-year-old Travis has a secret: he can't read. But a shrewd teacher and a sassy girl are about to change everything in this witty and deeply moving novel.
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.
had this great idea about a really easy skit we could do, but he kept saying no to everything and then at lunch he went down from six words to two. I couldn’t even get him to crack his famous tiny almost-smile. After our Saturday-morning sidewalk shoot-out, I thought we might actually be friends of some kind. But what do I know about friends? Everyone loves Velveeta, hahaha. I’m everyone’s entertainment monkey, and they all want me to sit with them at lunch or be in their group. But how often
answer. He scooped up more orange watery macaroni. Grandpa leaned across the table and poked Travis’s shoulder with a sharp finger. “You answer when I talk to you, boy.” Travis glared at him. “Trying to kill me with that look? Trav, I’m trying here, in case you didn’t notice. You think you could climb on board even for a minute?” Travis scraped his chair back and took his plate to the sink. When he turned around, Grandpa had gotten to his feet. “You wanna take a poke at me?” Grandpa stepped
he was back to not liking chatterboxes. The day was gray and sullen, the sun hidden. Moisture hung thick on the air, and Travis found it hard to get a full deep breath. When he got close to the dog’s house, he high-low whistled. The dog came roaring down the driveway. “Hang on, hang on.” Travis pulled the plastic bag out of his pocket. The dog quit barking as soon as Travis opened the bag. He could smell that baloney and didn’t want to scare it away. Travis tossed him a piece, and he caught it
yelled back, his face boiling red. “I loved that old hound before you were even born.” Travis pushed past Grandpa, out to the front porch. The wind was electric with threat, and lightning flickered. He pressed against the house, arms crossed over his chest, trying to get the pictures out of his head. A jagged bolt lit across the gray western sky, followed by a sharp crack of thunder. Hailstones dropped, popping off the sidewalk. The wind picked up, blowing hail and rain onto the porch. Grandpa
up as if he’d never seen Travis before. Then he shook his head and awkwardly pushed himself off the gravel. He limped back to the truck without a look or a word. He got in, slammed the door, started the engine, and left. Travis spent hours in the woods again, calling, whistling, looking under bushes. His stomach was a wrench of gut juice, and his mind spun with half-hammered excuses. I didn’t touch you! You fell all by yourself. And over it all: He’s an old dog, Trav. Old dogs sometimes go away