Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Read by Kathleen McInerney
Summary from Goodreads:
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.
This is a beautifully written story about never giving up on yourself and learning to overcome your difficulties. It is also unfortunately a little too perfect.
I like the book and would recommend it to almost any one. However I did have a few minor issues with it. I found it very hard to believe that Ally would have made it to sixth grade without having been diagnosed. I think the author tried to make it seem like their constant moving around, their dad is in the military, was to blame for this, but as a former special ed teacher I found it hard to swallow. Her records should have followed her and her struggles should have been documented. But I am nit-picking a little here. I can forgive the author this because she does tell Ally’s story well and with heart.
I like Ally, she is resilient and even though she doesn’t think so, very strong. She does act out when cornered or feeling afraid that someone will find out her secret, but she also has a good heart and really does want to do the right thing. This is seen mostly when she is being bullied, or when she witnesses others being bullied. She has a good role model in both Keisha and Albert. Keisha is not afraid to stand up to the mean girls and tell them to knock it off and Albert just lets the teasing roll off his back like it doesn’t bother him. I really liked Albert as a character, he had a lot of different sides to him.
I really liked that the author gave all of the kids strengths, Ally is a brilliant artist, Keisha is a talented and inventive baker, Albert is very smart, Ally’s brother is an impressive mechanic. But they also have some flaws which makes them more believable. I also really liked the relationship between Ally and her brother, and even her mother who we don’t see as much as I would have liked too. Her mother at times did not appear to understand what Ally was going through, even when her disability is discovered.
I liked Mr Daniels the teacher that comes into Ally life and helps her. He is everything that you want to see in a teacher, kind, understanding and cool. He is just perfect, and unlike any teacher I have ever met. I have met and worked with many brilliant teachers who are all of those things, but we all have our off days, and I think Mr. Daniels would have been more believable if we had seen him having one of those off days. Ok, so he did make a small mistake with his notes to a substitute that horribly embarrassed Ally, but I couldn’t fault him for that.
Regardless of the small flaws, this is still a well done story with an important message. I also loved the ending with Ally realizing that she could help others who are afraid to ask.