Genre: Realistic Fiction
Hardcover: 288 pages
Ally has been in trouble many times, most of the time it's even on purpose. But, this last trip to the principal's office was purely unintentional. Ally didn't mean to hurt Mrs. Hall's feelings by bringing a card to her baby shower. She didn't know that instead of saying congratulations, she brought a sympathy card. She just thought the yellow flowers on the card were pretty. Ally just made a mistake. No one suspects that the real reason Ally has been getting herself in trouble on purpose is to escape from anything to do with reading. "Reading for me is still like trying to make sense of a can of alphabet soup that's been dumped on a plate." Ally's dad is in the military, so their seven moves have allowed Ally to hide her reading difficulties pretty well. For the most part, Ally stays quiet, happy to watch her "mind movies" and draw in her sketchbook of impossible things. That is until Mr. Daniels begins subbing for her teacher on maternity leave. Mr. Daniel begins to realize that the reason Ally has been getting herself in trouble is that she is struggling with dyslexia.
From the authors dedication, you immediately know Fish in a Tree is meant for teachers and kids. "Kids who find their grit to conquer life's challenges-no matter what those challenges may be." Ally is an interesting character, one filled with many insecurities. Ally in many ways believes that she is incapable of learning. Even believing Shay and what she perceives the other kids at school are saying about her (dumb, stupid, loser). It doesn't help that her mom thinks that she is smart and just needs to work harder. It's these initial chapters that had my kiddo saying that the book was "sad, but I want to see what happens." Since the book is written from Ally's point of view, there is instant empathy for her. You really want her struggles to come to light, you want the kids bullying her at school to stop, and for her to recognize her strengths. Thankfully, she does. Mr. Daniels is a wonderful teacher, the kind that you hope every child has an opportunity to meet. I loved the mystery object lesson, and how he interacted with Oliver and Albert. These two things allowed Ally to begin to see some of her own strengths. Ally also begins to change as she forges new friendships with Oliver and Keisha, and as she begins to get help for her dyslexia. Overall the story leaves you hopeful about Ally's future. Included at the end of the book is a letter from Hunt to her readers, she talks about the inspiration of the story being a teacher she had when she was younger and how she struggled in school as well. Hunt makes the point that "we all have talents and areas of strength, as well as things we need to work harder on."
Favorite line: “Everyone is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life thinking it’s stupid.”