Fish in a Tree
by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (2015) (Available in Spanish)
What is it like to read when the letters seem to move on the page? What is like to be in the room full of people – and still feel all alone?
Meet Ally. She’s dyslexic. (But doesn’t know it yet.) She’s in her 7th school in 7 years. She’s got a great brother, but no friends. She’s lonely.
These are just some of the age-appropriate Middle School themes presented, explored, and negotiated in Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s novel, Fish in a Tree.
It’s one of several titles we’re offering in which the protagonist – here, it’s Ally – has some cognitive or physical challenge – and learns to negotiate her peer group, her school, and her family while trying to manage or overcome her challenge.
In Ally’s case, she’s pretty sharp. Watch as she outsmarts the coin dealer who’s trying to out-shark her. She’s smart, but she’s not confident.
It’s not easy. There are two memorable mean girls at her school.
But Ally does find two strong friends who continually find new ways to ask her, “Why do you care what other people think?” That’s something everyone thinks about. And that makes Fish in a Tree a great book to share. Across a middle school. Within families. Throughout a community.
Ally also gets empathy, understanding, and eventually help from a perceptive and gifted substitute teacher, Mr. Daniels.
Readers will root for Ally as she wallows in frustration, slowly gains trust and then insight from her friends, and eventually gets the diagnostic help and innovative tools that she needs. Readers will enjoy learning to empathize through the eyes of a dyslexic protagonist – and wish they could write with shaving cream, too!
But Fish in a Tree conquers far more than dyslexia. Readers will revel too in valuable wisdom – “On the outside, happy and sad can look like the same thing” – pithily phrased by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.
Fish in a Tree is a perfect title to help middle school students learn how someone different than themselves thinks and feels. They’ll continue to ponder the eternal churning question, “Why do I care what other people think?” and learn lessons they’ll carry with them far beyond Middle School.