Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate
Author: Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Illustrator: Kimberly Lynn Hunt
Publisher: Puffin Books
Ally gets into trouble a lot, but her teachers never spend the time to actually help her or figure out that Ally can’t read. One day, a new teacher comes to her classroom. Mr. Daniels is unlike all her other teachers. He senses that Ally is bright and smart, but that something is wrong. After gaining Ally’s trust and helping her recognize her worth, Mr. Daniels is able to talk to Ally about reading and what is holding her back. It turns out that Ally has dyslexia. Mr. Daniels teaches her skills to enable her to start reading. Ally makes two friends in her classroom and gradually gains courage and self-esteem. Eventually, Ally is voted class president in spite of the continual put downs of the class bully. Ally learns of her true value and how to turn her weakness into a great strength.
The characters in this book are wonderful and diverse, representing any typical middle school group of kids. The author did an excellent job of using the character’s actions and conversations to bring out each personality. The chapters are very short with expressive titles, and they help describe the world as Ally sees it. The book is also easy to read with fairly large print. Although readers may wonder at the interesting title, Fish in a Tree, through clever conversation interwoven throughout the novel, Hunt eventually reveals its allusion. Overall, this story shares an important message to children that they are surrounded by people who are different from them, but being different is something that should be celebrated rather than criticized. Many children have struggles that they have no control over (such as Ally’s dyslexia), and we should be sympathetic, kind, and understanding.