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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.
didn’t even hit anybody — they just backed off.” That was true. Travis hadn’t hit anybody. He’d just growled like Larry the dog. No concussions, nobody on the ground, no cold sludge in his guts. “Come on,” he said. “I’ll walk you as far as the bridge in case they’re still hanging around.” They walked in silence until they got in sight of the bridge. The picnic table was empty. “I lied when I told Velveeta I don’t lie,” said Bradley. “I lie all the time to my dad. I leave early for school so I
the part that made tears come out of my butt. Liesel’s papa reminds me too much of Calvin. I couldn’t figure out how McQueen knew, and I was thinking maybe Connie told him. I was starting to get mad about that when he slammed the book shut and pointed at me and said “That’s you.” “That’s me what?” I asked him. Then he got all Stand and Deliverish and said I was that kind of person, the kind who sits up when Death comes to get them. The souls who put out a lot of light in the world. Like Liesel’s
thought my heart was going to fall out of my chest — that’s how bad it hurt. Why did that hurt? It doesn’t make any sense. I don’t understand anything. Velveeta was still wearing the green scarf first period on Monday. She waved the end of it at Travis when he walked in the door. Not mad. “Thanks for the doughnut holes,” she said. “You kept me from getting malnutritioned over the weekend.” “Are you okay?” “I don’t have the bubonic plague or a broken leg. So yup, I’m okay. Pay attention —
skin as he swallowed. “That means he’s been gone for hours,” said Travis. “We’d better go look for him.” Grandpa took another drink, then looked at Travis for the first time. “He’s an old dog, Trav. Old dogs sometimes go away and don’t come back.” “What do you mean?” Travis’s voice cracked high. “I mean he might have left for a reason, and we should leave him be.” Travis walked miles through the woods that afternoon, along the roads and fields until after dark. His throat hurt from calling,
didn’t take a full breath until he was a good fifty feet away. Then he snuck a look over his shoulder. The dog trotted back up the drive, all relaxed, looking like he’d just gone out to get the mail and not like he’d been threatening murder. Travis grinned. He knew how that felt. KaBLOW, snarl, and snap, and then it’s over, and hey, did I just bite your leg off? Sorry — I didn’t really mean to. A woodpecker hammered nearby, and Travis sucked in a big lungful of crisp air. He stepped into the