Fish in a Tree

Ally has been crafty enough to fool many 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 horrified 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. This is an example of character vs. self, because Ally is fighting with her dyslexia. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s Fish in a Tree is a fictitious novel about three kids: Ally, Keisha, and Albert, who “set the world on fire” as they overcome challenges and conflicts.

The plot begins with Ally refusing to try at school because of her learning disabilities. Little does she know, her new teacher would change her life forever. When Mr. Daniels comes along, he doesn’t just send Ally to the office when she creates distractions, but he finds a way to help her. Mr. Daniels finds new techniques to help Ally. For example he invites her to play chess with him after school. Ally ends up liking chess, making the plans in her head, and trying to capture Mr. Daniel’s pawns. Two students in Ally’s class, Keisha and Albert, befriend Ally. It turns out Albert has secrets of his own. He comes to school everyday with a few new bruises. Keisha is the brave one, she stands up for her friends when the mean girl, Shay, and her clique come after them.

“Everyone is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it’ll spend it’s whole life thinking it’s stupid” (p. 159). Mr. Daniels talks to Ally about her dyslexia and he tells her he is there for her and will help her out. Ally learned a very important lesson, not to care about what people say about her no matter what. “My grandpa used to say to be careful with eggs and words, because neither can ever be fixed. The older I get the more I realize how smart my grandpa was.” (p. 159) Toward the end of the book, Shay’s friends realize they don’t like being mean to Ally so they befriend her.

The main theme of the story is friendship because when Ally and Albert are being bullied by Shay, Keisha stands up for them. For example, when Mr. Daniels does a lesson for the class about a few famous inventors, scientists, artists etc. including Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein, he then informs the class how scientists nowadays believe that these people all had dyslexia. Shay came over to Ally and mocked her for having dyslexia, but Keisha came to Ally’s defense.One day, on the walk home from school, Ally, Keisha, and Albert are confronted the boys who have been beating Albert up. When Albert tells the boys to go away and stay away, the boys push Keisha to the ground. They also dump her backpack on the grass. Albert full on screams at the guys and punches one of them in the gut. “‘My dad always said violence is something to avoid at all costs,’ Albert tells us, ‘But he has also said that you never hit a girl. And so I had to weigh the two. I just…’ Then he stops walking and he’s wide-eyed looking at me. It gives me a chill the way he does it ‘But really.’ he says, ‘it just made everything hurt inside to see them hurt you two, and I would have done anything in the universe to stop it.”’ As the outsiders begin to fit in, surprising things begin to happen in Ally’s classroom that shows her that there is much more to her, and everyone than a label.  The message in the book is that great minds don’t think alike. This would be the message because not everybody thinks alike.Such as, not everybody want to be mean to Ally like Shay. I loved Fish in a Tree and the message it tells. I recommend this book to students grades six and up, including adults. Fish in a Tree can teach many students and adults how to deal with bullies and dyslexia.


Author: Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Genre: Realistic Fiction