Lynda Mullaly Hunt follows her successful novel, One for the Murphys, with this contemporary novel of a sixth grade student who thinks something is wrong with her because she doesn’t fit in.
In Fish in a Tree, Ally successfully hides the fact that she cannot read, but she thinks she is dumb. She tries to cover her learning difference by distracting the teacher with her actions, causing her to frequently spend time in the principal’s office. When Mr. Daniels, a new teacher, begins to help her with recognizing and overcoming her dyslexia, life begins to change. Ally makes allies with blunt-spoken Keisha and fact-obsessed Albert, as they stand together against classmates who bully them for being different.
When someone has confidence in you, it is easier to pick yourself up and try again after you fall. Fish in a Tree ‘s theme is “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.”
Hunt creates a heartwarming character-driven novel that students and teachers will enjoy. Ally’s experiences will resonate with the reader as they get pulled into the story early on. Ally is endearing – some characters are likeable while others are not. Some border on being stereotypical (mean-girl bully, nerdy guy). Life doesn’t end “happily ever after” at the end of the book, but things have changed for Ally and progress is made in small steps. The confidence that Ally has discovered enables her to help another family member.
Recommended for public libraries and school libraries. Fans of Wonder, and Absolutely Almost will enjoy this book. This would make a good read-aloud and discussion book.
Carol R. Gehringer
–reprinted with permission, Christian Library Journal, 2015.