Middle School

Fish in a Tree

Lynda Mullaly Hunt
2015

Acceptance

Bullying

Courage

Friendship

Kindness

Resilience

Disability Diversity

“On the outside, happy and sad often look the same.”

What is it like to try 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 she doesn’t know there’s an actual name for what makes reading so difficult just yet. She’s in her seventh school in seven years. She’s got a great brother, Travis, a mechanical genius who can fix almost anything. But she has no friends, school is just torture, and Travis can’t fix that. She’s lonely, and she knows exactly what lonely means.

“…being lonely is never a choice. It’s not about who is with you or not. You can feel lonely when you’re alone, but the worst kind of lonely is when you’re in a room full of people, but you’re still alone. Or you feel like you are, anyway.”

Ally is a deep thinker with a wonderful way with words, even if reading and writing are almost impossible for her. Luckily, her new teacher – Mr. Daniels – sees past her struggles to the perceptive, artistic, intelligent girl inside. He knows he can help her re-learn to read. But, after seven years of being told she is dumb, can he help Ally re-learn who she is?

In addition to Mr. Daniels and Travis in her corner, Ally makes two terrific friends at her new school – Keisha and Albert. And, together, they are a mighty force against the classic middle school mean girls – Shay and Jessica.

Fish in a Tree is one of several titles we offer with a protagonist facing some cognitive or physical challenge while learning to negotiate peers, school, and family. Like Willow in Counting by 7s and Melody in Out of My Mind, Ally is a fully-drawn, complex character, not a stock caricature. Students and families will see and feel what it is like to be a child facing dyslexia with frustration, wit, courage, self-doubt, anger, and all the other middle school emotions.

Come along with Ally as she draws in her Sketchbook of Impossible Things, haggles with coin dealers, writes in shaving cream, and finds a way to help Travis, too. And give your students a chance to think about the freedom that comes when you stop worrying about what other people think and start living your life, your way.

Additional Options

  • Title available in Spanish