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Fish in a Tree

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“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.”

Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of 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 afraid 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. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published February 5, 2015

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Lynda Mullaly Hunt

12 books1,284 followers

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5 stars
34,998 (49%)
4 stars
23,533 (33%)
3 stars
8,946 (12%)
2 stars
2,117 (2%)
1 star
1,055 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,751 reviews
Profile Image for Heather K (dentist in my spare time).
3,883 reviews5,804 followers
June 23, 2020
It's extremely hard for me to review this book objectively because it has a lot of personal meaning for me.

My daughter's class read Fish in a Tree when she was in 4th grade, and she was beyond excited. She felt seen for the first time because she had just been diagnosed officially with dyslexia a few weeks before. And getting that diagnosis and the help she needed was truly life-changing, just like it was for the main character in this book.

For those of you out there reading this book who think that it's unrealistic that a kid could make it to 6th grade without being diagnosed, you are wrong. It is only though having attentive and dedicated parents/caregivers who insist on answers, a very observant teacher, and/or a school district with the means to help students do children finally get diagnosed and taught in a way that allows them to actually learn.

This book allowed my daughter's peers to understand a little bit of what she goes through to learn, and it helped my daughter understand that she isn't stupid (which I had told her time and time again). For those reasons, I am grateful for this story, and I hope it continues to teach children understanding and empathy.

Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews621 followers
July 15, 2019
Audiobook… Read by Kathleen McInerney.

“Living in a world of impossible things like in ‘Alice in wonderland’.....in a world where nothing makes sense makes perfect sense to Ally.

Ally is so darn adorable and lovable!!!!
The sixth grader is a whiz at math, a terrific little artist, and has a priceless imagination....
but she can’t read.
She has fooled teachers -year after year... in different schools. The letters on the page wiggle and give her headaches. She has dyslexia. And probably a controversial diagnosis called Irlen
syndrome...( the wiggly letters that move on the page are an indicator)...

Worse...Ally feels dumb. She feels stupid. She feels bad. She feels wrong. She feels ashamed. She feels alone. She feels humiliated. She feels hopeless.

Ally has been sent to the principal’s office so many times in her young years...
It’s completely robbed her of her self worth.
She has a very loving mother… But she needs to work long hours - at an ice cream store- and is not home as much as she wishes.
Ally has a wonderful older brother but he is living his life. Her father has been deployed and her grandfather, whom she was very close with recently died.

Our hearts attach ourselves to this young girl immediately. Our heart continues to grow as we journey with Ally at school... with her teacher, and classmates.

The audiobook is only five hours.
I listened to this Audiobook today while doing those mundane things that needed my attention: cleaning, laundry, yard work, and a little pool soaking.
Ally’s young voice was a joy to have as my companion.
Her child’s voice was wonderful - real - authentic - not pretentious -- with no ‘adult-feed’ language.

Mr. Daniels, her new teacher, gave all the students a new notebook for the kids to journal in daily.
The teacher encourage the kids to write about anything they wanted. They would not be graded.
Their assignment was about communication, self-expression, but not measurement.
Ally wondered if her teacher was delirious...it sounded much too good to be true.

As the book goes on... we see Ally develop more confidence, make more friends, read better, and develop deeper understanding & empathy for those who were mean to her.

A very sweet read...
Wonderful for parents and grandparents to read this their young children.

This is a special book of a child’s triumph.
A book that definitely will touch adults as much as kids.
One’s heart would need to be cold blue not to feel the love & warmth.

Profile Image for Adam James.
546 reviews17 followers
March 28, 2016
I'm pretty confused at the amount of 4 and 5 star reviews for this one. It's almost like people haven't read this exact book 57 times already.

Apparently I'm in the minority in proclaiming there to be way more wrong with Fish in a Tree than there is right.

So...we have a book about a dyslexic child that's close to 300 pages. Is Hunt trying to give dyslexic kids a panic attack?
Also, as a sixth grade reading and writing teacher, it's UNFATHOMABLE to believe that a child could make it all the way to sixth grade without anyone noticing she's dyslexic. In what appears to be a pretty competent school district with competent teachers, how could this character slip through the cracks THAT long without any teacher seriously noticing her dyslexia? Even the heroic and super empathetic young cool guy teacher didn't notice the character's learning disability for what feels like months? AND he only has like 13 kids in his class?!

As unrealistic as that sounds, it could be easily forgiven if the rest of Hunt's book was interesting, or clever, or different, or interesting.
Guess what! There's a bully! And she's prissy! And there's a robotically intelligent science geek! And he gets beaten up! By different bullies! And there's a Japanese girl named Suki who speaks in broken caveman-English (ugh).
The reason why Wonder was such a revelation is because R.J. Palacio side-stepped the cliches with creative narrative structure featuring painfully realistic character development.
But Lynda Mullaly Hunt's Fish in a Tree is supposed to garner the same kind of attention as R.J. Palacio despite lacking everything that made Wonder so important?

In a novel where the overall themes teach kids to be proud of what makes them different, why does Hunt feel the need to be so ordinary?
And why are we applauding her for it?
Profile Image for Emily.
699 reviews10 followers
October 28, 2015
Ugh. Two stars is definitely generous for this one, but I guess I would recommend it (not very enthusiastically) to middle-graders who like problem novels and aren't old enough to notice that this is hackneyed as hell. There is a mean girl who is cartoonishly mean, a sassy black best friend (SERIOUSLY?), a smart kid who talks like Data (ARGH), a super shy Japanese girl who talks in broken English (*headdesk*), and a warm-hearted cool male teacher who wears funny ties and saves the day while saying things like "It's so brave of you to come to school every day knowing that the other kids will razz you." RAZZ YOU? And the too-special-to-be-true heroine says things like "Yeah, he's a peach," (because it is 1950 apparently? maybe that's why no one in the world has ever heard of dyslexia before? but no, because there is Skyping). I might be most upset by the fact that we're supposed to believe these kids are sixth graders and not third graders. Maaaaybe fourth. But only if they live in some bizarre 1950s throwback two-dimensional stereotype-land.

This book is showing up on Mock Newbery lists? Really?
Profile Image for Natalie.
2,822 reviews139 followers
August 29, 2016
I started listening to this and had to stop about 10% in. It was so annoying.

1. The narrator, the gal we're supposed to be all sympathetic for, is freaking annoying. When she scribbled all over her desk....oi.

2. As a teacher I have a hard time believing that this girl made it all the way to sixth grade with no one seeing that she can't read. We're required to give individual reading assessments twice a year, usually takes me two whole days to get through the whole class, and if a child can't read, we would know immediately, starting in Kindergarten. Also, how could her parents not notice anything? I resent the implication that teachers are that clueless. I've taught a couple kids with dyslexia and I worked hard to get them the support they needed.

3. Honestly, I didn't really get the big deal about the sympathy card. I teach fifth grade and if a kid gave me that I would just assume they didn't know what it meant. They give me weird stuff from the heart all the time. Definitely would not send to the principal's office.

4. Even though I didn't read this far I could tell what was coming with the mention of the new male teacher. He was going to be cool and hip and save the day. Never mind that he's a substitute. I have the greatest respect for subs, I was one before I graduated, but it's not the same as a teacher. It's just not.

5. The reader on the audiobook compounded my feelings about the narrator by giving her the whiniest voice in the world. It was so grating and made me hate the MC even more. I didn't feel sympathy for her at all.

6. The stereotypical bully girls. I've taught 1st, 4th, and 5th grade and I have never ever seen kids act that way. Never. I've also never seen kids mock other kids in front of the whole class like that and if they even tried I would be all over them in 2 seconds. Don't get me wrong, kids can be mean as snot but I've never seen them act the way that Hunt depicts.

7. I read through several other reviews and I'm so glad I stopped. I will not be attempting any other books by Hunt. Her other book, One for the Murphys, had some similar issues, but I liked it better than this one.
Profile Image for Manybooks.
3,213 reviews104 followers
December 28, 2018
I do indeed feel more than a bit conflicted regarding Lynda Mullally Hunt's Fish in a Tree. As while I have definitely found the novel very much and generally an engaging and emotionally satisfying reading experience (and have especially enjoyed main protagonist Ally Nickerson's voice, appreciate her struggles with undiagnosed dyslexia, and have also found her two best friends Albert and Keisha both personally relatable and generally for the most part realistically enough drawn and depicted by the author), there are definitely and unfortunately (at least in my opinion) also some potential issues with Fish in a Tree. Now for one, I am actually not all that sure as to what the specific time frame of Fish in a Tree is meant to be. Because if the storyline of Fish in a Tree is indeed heavily based on Lynda Mullally Hunt's own school experiences with unnoticed dyslexia (as appears to be the case according to the author's note at the back of the book), then the basic premise of Ally Nickerson being in grade six and no one having as yet figured out that she cannot read (and obviously at first not really believing it either as she is obviously rather a genius with regard to both art and mathematics) does indeed make quite a lot of sense. However, if Fish in a Tree is in fact supposed to be a totally and utterly contemporary story (taking place now or at the latest just a few years ago) I would definitely have to wonder and question a trifle that Ally's dyslexia had not been noticed considerably earlier (as in today's school systems, teachers are as far as I know supposed to keep an active eye open for learning challenges, especially the less obvious and noticeable ones such as dyslexia, and indeed, it also seems as though Ally's older brother Travis has also gone through school not ever actually learning to read).

And for two, and even more of a negative, while I certainly have much loved reading about Ally's special and amazing new teacher Mr. Daniels and how he not only realises she has considerable problems with reading and gets her tested for dyslexia but also how he tirelessly and even on his own time works with her to help her cope and achieve reading ease and personal confidence, in my humble opinion, Mr. Daniels also is simply just a bit too stereotypically perfect (somewhat too good to be true, almost unrealistically supportive and wonderful in every way), just like main villain, main mean girl Shay is in my opinion equally just a bit too stereotypically horrid and almost like an evil fairy tale witch like caricature (for even though bullies do exist and sadly often make things very difficult to anyone even remotely different, as I can certainly attest to from my own personal experiences at school, in my opinion, Lynda Mullally Hunt has gone somewhat too far with regard to Shay, as she is just a cardboard slab of nastiness and frankly, most people, even bullies, are not totally stereotypical, not so totally one-sided). But the above all having been and necessarily said, I have still very heartily enjoyed reading Fish in a Tree and have found much of the presented narrative both engaging and entertaining (and also often heartbreaking and saddening). However, considering the author's tendency towards presenting and featuring more character types than nuanced and varied individuals with both positive and negative, both laudatory and not so acceptable personality traits, I can and will only consider a three star ranking maximum for Fish in a Tree (for a generally engaging and emotionally charged Middle Grade school themed story that would nevertheless require rather more character development and depth in order for me to consider it with a higher star ranking).
Profile Image for Hossein.
224 reviews95 followers
March 23, 2021
چقدر خوبه که یه معلم همچین چیزی رو بخونه و بدونه جایگاهش تا چه حد میتونه تاثیرگذار باشه. و این که چقدر نیازه نوجوون‌ها این رو بخونن. در دوره‌ی سنی‌ای که به هرجور تفاوتی برچسب میخوره و زندگی سخت میشه، چقدر شنیدن این جمله تسکین دهنده‌ست:

هرکسی به نوعی باهوشه، اما اگه یه ماهی رو مجبور کنی که از درخت بره بالا و بخوای بر این اساس قضاوتش کنی، اون‌وقت ماهی همه عمرش رو به این فکر می‌کنه که چقدر احمقه.
Profile Image for Nat.
109 reviews66 followers
September 18, 2018
3.5 stars

“Great minds don’t think alike.”
April 20, 2023
حالم از عصبانیت و این حرف‌ها گذشته. بهش می‌گویم: " ببین. وقتی سوار دوچرخه می‌شوی، انتظار داری روی زینش بمانی. نه این‌که هر بار رکاب می‌زنی، کله پا شوی. آره؟"

_ آره خب که چی؟

_ حالا تصور کن هر بار که سوار دوچرخه‌ات می‌شوی، نگران باشی الان چرخ‌ها خود به خود در می‌روند. و واقعا هم هر بار سوار می‌شوی، چرخ‌هایت در بروند. با این حال دلبخواهی هم نیست. باید هر روز سوار دوچرخه‌ات بشوی.‌ بعدش هم مجبور باشی ببینی که بقیه هم دارند از هم پاشیدن دوچرخه‌ی زیر پایت را می‌بینند. بدتر از همه این است که همه فکر می‌کنند تقصیر توست که این اتفاق‌ها می‌افتد و تو بدترین دوچرخه‌سوار دنیایی.

کتاب رو که تموم کردم، همه‌ی بغض‌هام در حین خوندن کتاب تبدیل به گریه شدن. گریه کردم. برای تک تک آدم‌هایی که توانایی‌هاشونو هیچوقت پیدا نکردن و اگر هم پیدا کردن، سرکوب شدن یا بستری برای پرورشش نداشتن پس قبول کردن که بی‌عرضه و ناتوانن. کاش هممون یه اقای دانی‌یلز تو زندگیمون داشتیم.
این کتاب، رمان نوجوانه. اما حس میکنم اول باید معلم‌ها، مربی‌ها و مامان باباها بخوننش.

موقع خوندن کتاب خیلی چیزا تو ذهنم بود که تو ریویو بنویسم. حتا بلافاصله بعد تموم شدنش هم کلی حرف داشتم بگم ولی الان فکر میکنم نیازی نیست چیز خاصی بنویسم جز این که ازتون بخوام این کتاب رو بخونید لطفا.
Profile Image for Jeannette.
673 reviews143 followers
May 8, 2015
Read on the WondrousBooks blog.

"I want to give him an answer, but I have both too many words and not enough."

To be honest, this book was an unexpected gem for me. I liked the cover and I was in for some new books from NetGalley, but I didn't think it would be awesome, I expected a pleasant enough read at most. Turned out it was quite the amazing book after all.

Fish In A Tree tells the story of a young girl who can't make the words and letters stay in place and always feels out of her depth in school because of that. Some of her classmates make fun of her and she is convinced that is really, truly stupid. Until a new teacher comes to school and makes her realize that her brain simply works differently and that many of the most brilliant minds ever had dyslexia, just like her.

As a whole, the book was very sweet and touching. It's probably not going to win an award for most brilliant writing or plot, but that doesn't mean it's not great. The story is simple but heartfelt.

At first I was annoyed with Ally because she seemed to be purposely failing, but I soon realized that that was not the case at all. I realized that she was actually struggling very hard to be better, though at the beginning that wasn't apparent.

With time, Ally turned out to be quite the wonderful character, brave, even though she was failing, stubborn, even though it seemed hopeless. I really liked how she grew up in the course of the book and the big little person she became at the end. Most of all. I liked the final scene with her brother and the teacher, it really moved me.

The recurring characters were not a stroke of originality, of course - a band of outcasts, a posse of mean girls, a couple of kids not brave enough to stand up for the weaker ones until the weaker kids became willful enough to fend for themselves. But they were fun to read about. They also grew. along with Ally. I liked Albert the most. I was sad for him, but I was also proud of the way he carried himself and learned to live with his difficulties. Actually, come to think of it, I think he was my favourite character in the entire book.

Though Mr Daniels was also admirable. He presented a whole new field of ideas in this book. Setting the coming-of-age theme of the book aside, there was also the subject of teaching and education, which I think was equally as important. It really saddens me to see written what I know is true - that education is becoming a formalized activity which focuses not on the knowledge children should receive, but on results, no matter the cost. Most teachers don't see teaching as a calling, as I think it should be, but as a way to pay the bills if you don't have any other job opportunities. They don't care about the learning differences kids have and they in no way find ways to nurture all of their students, on the contrary, the favourites are the ones that can keep up with the insane criteria for a successful student, and the rest are being oppressed, sent to the principle, declared stupid and even mocked by the teachers. I think that's completely unacceptable. Once upon a time the teacher was a guide, a friend of his or her students, until our world developed to this point where you are good at something if you are making millions, and if you can't do that, you become a teacher instead, you are bitter and mean and want to take it out on the children that you have promised to protect and teach. It's a horrible and sad reality the results of which can obviously be seen in the thousands of school dropouts and especially in the millions and billions of children who struggle to memorize information in order to look like they know what they are doing but actually end up knowing nothing at all. It would be so much easier and helpful if teachers cared about what they were doing, that way children would also have a different attitude to learning and would actually do it with desire and would be successful. In that fashion, Mr Daniels reminded me of John Keating from Dead Poets Society, one of my favourite movies. I honestly hope that more teachers would be like that and that one day that profession will turn again into a calling and education will turn into something that people desire, instead of something they are forced into.

If you have ever felt like you didn't belong, like you couldn't keep up and the world was moving around you, like you weren't smart enough or good enough, I think Fish In A Tree is the book for you and it can inspire you to work a little harder and to realize that through hard work you can achieve bigger things.
"It's like birds can swim and fish can fly."
Profile Image for Claudia.
2,497 reviews89 followers
January 16, 2015
4.5 stars...strong, relatable book about a girl with a secret. Ally gets into trouble all the time at school because she won't do her reading and writing. She won't follow directions, and she makes really bad decisions about what she does and says.

She is a talented artist, as her brother is a talented mechanic...as long as they don't have to read the directions.

For years they have both hidden the fact they can't read or write. They distract, they overcompensate, and they just take the hits as being a troublemaker instead of a struggling reader.

I know Ally...I've had Ally. To hear her side of the story brings OUR struggle to light.

Ally is dealing with so much...her dad is deployed, her classmates bully and tease her, she has no friends. And she carries her distress about not being able to read with her as a constant weight.

Then, the new dynamic teacher arrives and sees what no one else ever saw...not her former teachers at the six other schools, not her principals. No one.

He is the savior who jumps in with his knowledge of reading and dyslexia from his special education classes and he's the one who works with her patiently..

But Ally and her friends are the ones who change the climate of the classroom and form new friendships.

Albert is brilliant and messy and another oddball. Keisha is a talented, inventive baker with a mouth and courage to speak up. The three form a friendship that warms your heart.

That half-star is for my disappointment that the career educators are shown to be blind to Ally's struggles. Disinterested, frustrated. The only thing her first teacher seems to know how to do is to send Ally to the office.

It's the new, inexperienced teacher who turns it all around. Who know and sees...BUT he does not stop the bullying in his classroom. That bothered me.

It would be refreshing to read a book about a career teacher who has been reaching out and helping kids for a career, and not just for a semester.

Niggling regret, I know. But 39 years with kids makes me protective of those hard-working teachers who have stuck it out for the long run and touched kids lives for years.
Profile Image for Bennett.
230 reviews4 followers
December 31, 2015
3.5 stars
"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"
Ally Nickerson has successfully hidden her inability to read from all the many schools she's been in throughout her life. But a new teacher forces her to address the problem, and pushes her to places she'd never thought she could go.

This book was fine. 3.5 stars in basically the very middle of the rating spectrum, so I'm just kind of neutral.

Ally was a likeable protagonist, and she had some good moments. I couldn't really picture her as the troublemaker she supposedly was before the story began, however.

Enter Mr. Daniels, a typical hip, young, change-your-life teacher. Those pop up a lot in books like these. What can I say? He just wasn't unique. I felt like he didn't have much of a character except for his perfect-teacher-ness. He reminded me of Mr. Terupt (Because of Mr. Terupt), and the counselor from There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom.

Ally's friends also seemed contrived and overused. Keisha, the confident friend. Albert, the so-smart-he's-quirky friend. I've seen both too many times.

The story itself is good. I was entertained through the whole novel.

Although, I did find Shay (typical mean girl) to be a bit unrealistic. If someone was actually THAT mean to everyone, she wouldn't have any friends. Even her school yard minions would soon leave. She was relentlessly vindictive, and it never stopped. What type of monster does that?

Mr. Daniels seemed to favor Ally A LOT. I had a teacher who had about four favorite students, and it stunk.

It was an okay book, but I think Lynda Mullaly Hunt could've used about two more revision drafts before sending this to print.
Profile Image for Moonkiszt.
2,168 reviews214 followers
July 31, 2019
Fish in a Tree

I hope every reader takes the time to read this book. . . .it may be aimed at juveniles (don’t like that label!) but I know more grown-ups than kids that could do with this author’s fantastic message: we all learn (read / think / behave) differently. We need to investigate and accommodate all modes of learning to enable success.

I so enjoyed the teacher, Mr. Daniels, who steps up and fills the Teacher shoes as they should be filled! The reader is shown Ally’s successes sprinkled in with the failures – which were not failures at all – again, words functioning as a box/trap. They are just words – slippery, and that often totally change over time. I’m looking forward to the day when “failure” loses its crippling aspect and develops something more along the line this book treats it: a learning event. Ally’s support group, even those who try and trip her up every day become subjects of consideration showing behavior grows out of a person’s daily experiences. There is a reason they do what they do, and investigation reveals sooooo much.

I love this book. 5 stars. Every kid and grown up should read it. . .I don’t usually like to should on people, but I gotta do it here – you should read this!
Profile Image for Arezoo Alipanah.
218 reviews89 followers
May 29, 2021
من معمولا تو داستانا پنج ستاره رو به کتابی میدم که همزمان بتونه آدم رو بخندونه و به گریه بندازه ولی در مورد این کتاب اگه جا داشت خیلی بیشتر از پنج ستاره میدادم.

داستان درمورد دختر بچه ی باهوشیه که خوانش پریشی داره. توی داستان که داره از زبان خود اَلی قرائت میشه با چالش هایی که براش پیش اومدن مواجه میشیم و اینکه چطور کم کم سعی میکنه با اونها روبرو بشه و معلمش تو این راه کمکش میکنه. به شدت داستان احساسی ای هست و نحوه ی بیان و سبک داستان واقعا شیرینه.

به شخصه به تازگی با پدیده خوانش پریشی آشنا شدم و بعد از این کتاب خیلی بهتر آدمایی رو که این مشکل رو دارند، درک میکنم.

به نظرم اگه توی کتابخونتون، تو گوشیتون یا هرجایی این کتابو دارین بخونیدش. واقعا قشنگه، واقعا.🥺💚

Do not hesitate. Read it:)

P.S: I wish everybody could have the chance of having a Mr. Daniels in their lives.

To think about:

*And I think of words. The power they have. How they can be waved around like a wand—sometimes for good, like how Mr. Daniels uses them. How he makes kids like me and Oliver feel better about ourselves. And how words can also be used for bad. To hurt.*

Profile Image for Christy.
3,920 reviews33.1k followers
October 2, 2021
4 stars
“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.”

Fish in a Tree is such an important book to read. For anyone who knows someone who struggles with dyslexia, or if you just want to learn more about it, this is the book for you.

Ally is in the sixth grade and she’s incredibly smart but struggles with her reading and writing. She excels at math and art, but it takes hours for her to just read a page, or write a paragraph. She has a difficult time in school because of this, until she gets a new teacher.

Mr. Daniels is one of those special teachers that truly cares about his students and wants each and every one of them to be successful. I’m sure most teachers feel this way, but he goes above and beyond to communicate with students that don’t communicate the traditional way, and to help those to don’t learn the ‘normal’ way to learn in a way that makes sense to them.

I loved watching Ally’s confidence grow and she realized she wasn’t stupid like she’s felt most of her life, she just learns differently than her cohorts. This is an own voices book for dyslexia and I think the author did a fantastic job.

Audio book source: Libby
Story Rating: 4 stars
Narrators: Kathleen McInerney
Narration Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Middle Grade
Length: 5h 44m

Profile Image for Barb Middleton.
1,759 reviews125 followers
April 30, 2015
I read oodles of books. Always have. Always will. Sure wish these blogs were around when I was growing up in the age of typewriters. My reading experiences are quite different than the students I chat with on a daily basis. They come at books with their own unique perspectives. Just like me. Just like you. This book has an appealing emotional punch that is similar to "Wonder," by R.J. Palacio and terrific character development. As an adult reader who has many favorites when it comes to books on children with disabilities, I'm getting pickier over what is original and stands out in the herd. While some parts of this story were touching, others fell short.

Sixth grader Ally is in school and her teacher is going on maternity leave. She asks her students to write a short paragraph on themselves for the long-term substitute teacher. The teacher and Ally get in a power struggle because Ally doesn't want anyone to know she can't read or write. Ally gets angry at being forced to write and scribbles hard on the desktop because she knows she'll get out of the activity. The teacher sends her to the principal and cleans the desk. Hmmm... usually the kid would clean the desk but this is one frustrated teacher. And she plays right into Ally's hands.

Ally's brain will think one thing and she'll blurt out another. Making friends is like washing peanut butter out of hair. She is bullied by Shay but also laughed at constantly by other kids in class. Most think she is trying to be funny and her quick-witted responses are often accidental - she doesn't mean to be a jokester or sassy-mouthed. The result is she fools the adults around her and successfully hides her disability. Other outliers in her class are picked on such as Albert, the scientific genius; Oliver, the ADHD tornado; and Keisha, the cooking prodigy. When the new teacher shows up he figures out that Ally has dyslexia and the two bond as she deals with her learning difficulty. More importantly, he draws out the potential in her and she learns to read and believe in herself.

The beginning sets up the stereotyped teacher that can't manage students and is exasperated by an uncooperative student. Her character is flat and perhaps it makes her a more obvious foil to the substitute teacher, Mr. Daniels; however, her lack of complexity made me not as engaged in the plot until Mr. Daniels chalks his way into the classroom scenes. Ally's inner monologue shows the emotional turmoil of a kid that is full of self-doubts. Students will empathize with Ally as she agonizes over making friends, feeling like a loser, and dealing with her problem. She lashes out at others and desperately wants to fit in with her peers. When she makes friends with the other misfits, Albert and Keisha, she finds power in friendship. Although when Ally first meets Keisha she asks her if she likes eggs and rambles on about all the different ways she likes eggs. This painful exchange magnifies her social ineptness. By the end this drastically awkward girl has all but disappeared.

The middle of the story takes off with characters defined by distinct traits and voices. Ally's brother shows that he has an engineer-type brain but suffers from the same learning fate as Ally. The dad is deployed overseas in the Middle East and the mom is doing the best she can with her children. The brother's ingenious design of windshield wipers without a motor reveal his innovative and inventive spirit. Mr. Daniel's character shows he's not always perfect either. Sometimes he singles Ally out to praise her and give her confidence that makes her feel like a charity case, other times he shares her secret. The complexity of trying to teach Ally is captured not only with her fragile ego, but with Mr. Daniel's not always making the right choices when dealing with her. This strengthens the authenticity of their relationship and shows that Ally can forgive even when she's been hurt by adults. I thought Mr. Daniel got preachy at times changing the focus from Ally's internal changes to a slight didactic tone on how to behave, especially at the end.

The humor balances the darker themes of bullies, anger, and misunderstandings. Ally tells Albert and Keisha why Shay is hell-bent on making her life miserable and it is easy to see why they don't get along. And it is Ally's fault. I won't spoil it, because it is so Ally. Needless to say Ally's mistake and Shay's relentless put-down's are understandable. Shay's mother is a bully, as well as her daughter, making Shay's character more understandable and engaging. The author creates strong characters that pull the reader into the plot along with themes such as self-acceptance, confidence, and communication, to name a few.

The ending doesn't seem authentic because Ally goes from this impulsive kid that is a bit odd to a leader in the classroom that the kids look up to, ask advice, and want to be friends with in a very short time. It did not add up with the evolution of her character. Perhaps when Keisha, Albert, and Ally fantasize about the future about how successful they will be and are dreaming big, it sent me spinning off the cliff. I just needed them to be settled in their skin and instead the focus shifts toward them being successful in the eyes of the world and that jarred with me because up to that point they were being successful in their own eyes. In the book, "Absolutely Almost," by Lisa Graff, the boy learns to accept himself without outward success and it seemed more authentic; whereas, this is more wish fulfillment. There is nothing wrong with it, but it made the resolution feel off.

Novice readers have limited emotional experiences and reading is one way they can live vicariously through characters and be exposed to emotions before they happen in real life. This exposure helps prepare them to have empathy for others. By representing the inner qualities of a character such as feelings, beliefs, assumptions, intentions, and thoughts, an author can produce a way for readers to empathize with fictional characters giving them a strong emotional engagement that supports their cognitive and social development. This book does just that. And while I'm coming at it from as an adult reader and see some holes, I know that most will want to be on team Ally. A great addition to any library.
Profile Image for Kellee Moye.
2,533 reviews278 followers
March 24, 2016
Full review at: http://www.unleashingreaders.com/?p=5674

5 stars times 100. I adore so much about this book.
Ally is so many students that I have had over the years that just needed a teacher to take the time.
Mr. Daniels is the teacher that I hope I am, that I wish I could be, that I want all teachers to be, and that I want to be friends with.
Ally's journey is one that I hope I inspire my students to have.
Keisha is the friend I wish I'd had.
Albert is so many student in our schools that are just a bit different thus leading to a life of sorrows.
Shay shows that meanness often is because of meanness.
Travis shows that it is never too late to change a kid's life.
So many special characters and such a special story.
Once again, Lynda Mullaly Hunt made me cry. Well done!
Profile Image for Jill Williamson.
Author 59 books1,446 followers
September 10, 2019
This is a book my fourth grade class will be reading as a read-aloud this year, so I wanted to read it ahead of time so that I was familiar with the story. It's about a girl named Ally who hates to read and write. She spends a lot of time in the principal's office because when her teacher puts her on the spot, she misbehaves rather than admit her struggles. Then she gets a new teacher who manages to reach Ally and discover that she struggles with dyslexia, which at first is scary to her, but eventually helps her see that she's not dumb. She just thinks differently than many other kids.

I really enjoyed this story. The author knows kids and created a classroom filled with diverse personalities. I loved watching Ally learn to make real friends instead of pining for what she perceived as popular. And I got a little misty-eyed when Ally's teacher got her on the right track to making progress in reading and writing, which helped her gain confidence. Such a sweet book. Glad my class will be reading it.

This is an important book for upper elementary school classrooms. It's a great book to read at the beginning of the school year to help establish a climate of social, emotional learning and acceptance for all learning styles. It's great to spark discussion about what kindness looks like in the classroom and how students should treat each other. It's a fabulous story and a great teaching tool too.
Profile Image for Fatma Al Zahraa Yehia.
464 reviews548 followers
February 19, 2023
That novel gave me an idea about what goes on a mind of a struggling student. I knew why some kids behave indifferently or even take the role of the class clown to get the attention away of what they are going through. That is a thing I'm grateful to this story about.

The character of "Albert" is one of the funniest, smartest and truest characters who I really wish kids take as a hero. A special kind of a hero for those who think that they have no one to defend themselves in this world.

The point is that the story has a lot of unnecessary side stories. And some other good story lines that could have been better worked on.

The other thing is that I couldn't buy the idea of a sixth-grader whose reading difficulties is clearly visible to anyone who worked in a nursery and not observed by any kind of whatsoever an educator along all her six school years.
That wasn't convincing by any means.

Besides, i think the story needed to be more grabbing. The mean student character needed to be less cliched. I wish students will have another say when they read it.

That is why i gave it two and a half stars.
Profile Image for Nancy.
Author 3 books33 followers
July 10, 2014
I was pleased to get my hands on an advance copy of this book. Being a huge fan of the author's first novel, ONE FOR THE MURPHYS, I was a little skeptical how this story would compare. However, I should not have worried. Mullaly Hunt has done it again! The author has a real talent for making fictional characters come alive, like "reach out and touch them and share their ice cream" alive, for her readers.
The story tenderly follows the struggles of a student named Ally, a bright young woman whose intelligence is hidden behind a monumental struggle to read. It takes a special teacher to peel back the layers of the defensive wall Ally has built and make her believe she is special and can succeed, something she never dreamed possible.
For anyone who has wondered what dyslexia feels like from the inside, for anyone who has ever felt "less than" because they did not fit a one-size-fits-all mold, for anyone who has had that one special teacher that changed their life, for anyone who has BEEN that teacher, and for anyone who loves a good underdog story that leaves you cheering through the lump in your throat...I recommend this book move to the top of your 'to be read' pile as soon as you can get a copy!
Profile Image for LauraW.
754 reviews19 followers
February 21, 2015
This book was compelling enough that I listened to the whole thing in two days and it is an encouraging look at a whole bunch of different kids who eventually learn to value each others strengths. I think kids will probably enjoy it and be able to see themselves in at least one of the characters.

There are, however, some things that make me a bit uncomfortable about it. Several of the characters seem like caricatures of certain types of kids: the brain, the girl bully, the outspoken confident kid. Even Ally herself, seems in some ways to be a caricature of dyslexic kids. And, the interactions sometimes border on the saccharine.

The narration is good, but adds to the saccharine feel of the story line. A bit too sweet to be real.
Profile Image for Holly.
169 reviews3 followers
March 24, 2015
WOW! I love a book that makes me want to cry when it's over because it's THAT good. If you loved Wonder, or Out of My Mind, or So B. It, or Counting By Sevens, this HAS to be your next read. I loved the way Hunt developed the characters in this story...I felt like I genuinely got to know all of them. Even though the "bully" in this story was dealt with a bit formulaically, the point was made and the lives of all the characters were better for it in the end. This was an incredibly engaging way to step into the shoes of someone dealing with a life of dyslexia and seeing how the love and perseverance of a great teacher can truly impact a child. I don't care if it's expensive and still in hardcover, I'm ordering five more for my media center tomorrow!
Profile Image for Iryna Khomchuk.
454 reviews65 followers
February 14, 2019

На обкладинці українського видання "Риби на дереві" наведено цитату одного з рецензентів: "Фанатам роману "Диво" Р. Дж. Паласіо сподобається". Так от як фанатка згаданого роману, погоджуюся. Однак між героями цих двох книг є значна відмінність: тоді як Огест із "Дива" мав фізичну ваду, яка одразу впадала в око, то Еллі на позір — найзвичайнісінька дівчинка, хіба що трошки того... ну, тупувата. Принаймні так про неї думають однокласники й вчителі. У дівчинки немає друзів, вона почувається самотньою, хоча має люблячих маму та брата. Вона з усіх сил старається вчитися й бути такою ж, як усі, однак їй це ніяк не вдається. "Може, я й справді тупа?" — думає Еллі.

Але їй пощастило. Дуже пощастило. Неймовірно пощастило. Рівень її везіння зможуть оцінити лише ті, на чиєму шляху траплялися унікальні вчителі, які не просто відпрацьовують свої години згідно із затвердженими навчальними та виховними програмами, а "спочатку бачать дитину, а потім уже учня; які нагадують нам, що в кожного з нас є що запропонувати цьому світу, а бути іншим важливіше, ніж бути таким, як усі". Оте, що в лапках, — то з присвяти авторки, котра мала такі ж, як і героїня її книги, проблеми й котра зустріла свого Вчителя. Отут висловлю ще одне своє захоплення тим, що авторка, яка страждала від дислексії, стала письменницею. Це ще раз підтверджує: нема нічого неможливого для дітей, які відрізняються від інших, якщо поряд із ними — мудрий наставник.

Книга ще й про дружбу трьох диваків, про перемогу — насамперед над собою, про мрії й цілеспрямований шлях до їх реалізації і, звісно ж, про любов — без неї ми мало на що здатні. Однак після прочитання роману в мене лишилося одненьке запитання-осад: як батьки, обоє дітей котрих практично не вміють читати, могли цього не помітити? Нібито любили їх, були уважними, але таку геть не дрібницю не завважили. Як?..
Profile Image for Amber.
480 reviews86 followers
February 11, 2018
Loved this book , and while it is geared towards upper primary, early secondary ,I think it is a must read for all adults too who have ever felt ,judged for being different or has lived with the difficulty of dyslexia. Don’t be put off by the title it relates to one of Albert Einstein’s best quotes,
Profile Image for Kavya_E1.
10 reviews1 follower
March 27, 2018
Fish In a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, is a stand-alone novel about a young girl named Ally Nickerson who enjoys school but struggles in reading. It’s not for a lack of trying but she tends to avoid books because she fears her limitations will be exposed. To cover for herself, she makes minor mischief at school that leaves her misunderstood by her teacher and peers. But when a new teacher arrives, he helps Ally see her true potential. Combined with a fledgling self-confidence and new friends, Ally takes small steps towards conquering her fears and insecurities.

This was one of those cases where the cover attracted me to the book before I even knew what it was about. (You have to admit – that is a pretty cool image and it looks more impressive in person as the fish is actually glossy so it stands out.) Thankfully, the book’s premise and story both held weight, enough to make it on the top 10 realistic fiction book list.

Fish in a Tree is true to its title! It’s charming, quirky, and shows that everyone is gifted differently so no two people are alike. Without being too preachy, this novel shows readers that disabilities don’t have to define or confine you. Ally is a true sweetheart who perseveres and keeps her chin up. The ending is satisfying and also proves that life isn’t all doom and gloom. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a pick-me-up read as well as to teachers who might consider adding this novel to their classroom’s shelves.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Peivand.
76 reviews8 followers
June 12, 2022
کتاب روان و اگه از دید یه نوجوان نگاهش کنیم خیلی زیباییه
دغدغه های اوائل نوجوانی یک بچه رو خیلی ناز و بامزه نوشته
دلم میخواست وقتی نوجوان بودم میخوندمش
اینم یه پاراگراف قشنگ از کتاب :
«تنها» فقط یک جور بودن است . اینکه فقط با خودت باشی بدون اینکه کسی دور و برت باشد و این می تواند خوب یا بد باشد
انتخابش با خودت است
اما تنهایی هیچوقت انتخابی نیست
درباره اینکه کسی باشد یا نباشد هم نیست
میتوانی احساس تنهایی کنی وقتی تنها هستی اما بدترین حالت زمانی است که توی یک اتاق پر از آدم باشی و باز احساس تنهایی کنی ...
Profile Image for Hissa.
252 reviews292 followers
October 12, 2019
I enjoyed this book too much! The story of Ally and her struggles will resonate with me for a very long time.
It’s a light book with a deep message.
That every child, adult and teachers should read.
It shows how important it is to be a good teacher! 👏🏻❤️
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