Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, review by Melissa Fox
Ally is one of those kids who just don't like school. That's partly because she's moved a ton because her father's in the military, and it's difficult always being the new kid. But most of it is because Ally can't read.She is constantly being made to feel dumb, never living up to her teacher's expectations. She tries to hide the fact through being a troublemaker, spending more time in the office than in her classroom. But it's still a
fact: Ally. Can't. Read.
Enter in Mr. Daniels, the permanent sub for her regular sixth-grade teacher who's off on maternity leave. He picks up on Ally's hesitancy and attempts to get into trouble and and realizes that there's more going on than meets the eye. He espouses the believe that not everyone's smart in the same way, and draws on Ally's strength, giving her the confidence to make friends and to stand up to the classroom bully.
It's always refreshing to read a book that celebrates difference while addressing the more typical learning disorders. I know I've read books where the main character was dyslexic, but I don't remember it being in such a direct way. It's also good that while Hunt included a broad spectrum of personalities and economic statuses -- there are people who are hyper, middle of the road kids, rich kids, kids on free lunches -- the usual
negative elements aren't anywhere to be seen. Most of the adult figures in Ally's life are positive (if a little clueless), and while there is some bullying, that's not the central focus of the book.
Rather, it's a celebration of our differences as people, from the way we learn to the different kinds of intelligence we each have. And a recognition that learning and true intelligence isn't really tied to how well our children do on tests. Which is always a thing worth remembering.
Recommended for ages 9 and up.