Fish in a Tree

Lynda Mullaly Hunt
The author of the beloved One for the Murphys gives readers an emotionally-charged, uplifting novel that will speak to anyone who’s ever thought there was something wrong with them because they didn’t fit in.   “Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.”   Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions.  She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.


Reviewed: 2020-12-01

Ally Nickerson can't read. Not that she doesn't want to -- she has been diagnosed with dyslexia. Because of this disability, Ally struggles to find her place in her new sixth grade classroom. After many frustrating arguments with her teacher, Mrs. Hall, Abby is relieved when she goes on maternity leave and is replaced with a substitute, Mr. Daniels. Mr. Daniels takes the entire classroom, and even skeptical Ally, by storm. However, Ally is still not convinced that he has good intentions until he takes time to work with her on overcoming her disability. He is also helping other students realize their potential and individuality. Ally makes two greats friends along the way: Albert, the nerdy kid who is a walking Google, and Keisha, who is an African American student who loves to bake words into cupcakes and is not afraid to speak her mind. This "band of misfits" is bullied by the classic mean girl crew of Shay and Jessica. In the end, not only is Ally able to tackle some of her dyslexia, but she also takes down Shay's ego and helps Albert tackle his own bullies. This is a classic middle school tale of tackling a secret and overcoming challenges. The characters are well developed, but can be somewhat cliché regarding school cliques. Yet it is still a very compelling read, especially for special education teachers-to-be or middle school students struggling with their own problems of secret-keeping or learning with a disability. Both young students and emerging teachers will enjoy this story and not want to put it down. Submitted by: Hannah Peak

Reviewed: 2018-12-09

It is a versatile middle-school reader, with a wholly engaging story for younger children as a read-aloud book or for older second language readers. This is exactly the type of book to enhance any library or book collection. The characters are believable and sympathetic, even Shay, Ally's nemesis. 

I am a teacher, and I have never identified a case of dyslexia. It is statistically probable that I have had students with dyslexia but wasn't aware of it. I have students who don't do their work or turn it in sloppy and/or incomplete. Might some of these students have dyslexia? Probably, but I have not the skills nor the time to identify it. There are many more Mrs. Silvers among the good teachers who miss it rather than Mr. Daniels who find the time and have the skills to correctly identify it. Class sizes and teaching loads are key reasons why students who learn differently are ignored or passed up. 

It is suggested that Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, George Washington, Henry Ford, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Patricia Polacco, Whoopi Goldberg, Henry Winkler, Muhammad Ali, John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Walt Disney, and John Lennon may have had dyslexia. How many other such great minds will we miss saving money by cutting education budgets? 

Biblioteca Inglesa (English Library) de Fortin de las Flores, Veracruz, Mexico

Reviewed: 2016-08-16

I absolutely loved this book. From the moment I read the title, Fish in a Tree, I was intrigued. Even my husband asked, "Fish in a Tree? What's that about? From the beginning of the text, I loved Ally's real ness and rawness when she discussed herself and other students in her class. The reader can really connect with Ally, no matter how they feel different or how others respond and think about them. Ally feels like a "fish in a tree" because she can't read and she can't write and she knows that she is the "dumb trouble maker " in the class. This is a great book for teachers, as we never know what is really going on in the minds of our students, and we may never know how much they truly struggle, what they are thinking, and what the real problem is that may be making them act out or cause trouble in the classroom. This is also a great book for students to learn more about one another and understand and appreciate differences. 

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