Every once in a while, I come across a book that I think all of my fellow educators should read…and possibly read aloud to their students. Wonder by R.J. Palacio and Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea are two such books. Well, I now have another to add to the list: Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.
The title for this book comes from a famous quote (often attributed to Albert Einstein): “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” The main character in Fish in a Tree, Ally, believes that she is stupid, and those around her–her fellow classmates and even her teachers–don’t do much to make her believe otherwise.
Ally Nickerson has a lot of trouble reading, and she usually covers up her problem by making jokes and causing distractions (although she doesn’t always intend to be a troublemaker). Her latest blunder, though, gets her moved to a new teacher’s classroom.
Ally is sure that she can hide her reading difficulties from Mr. Daniels, but this guy is sharper than Ally’s previous teachers. He realizes rather quickly that Ally is having problems, but he doesn’t call her slow or stupid. Instead, he praises her for her artistic abilities and lets her know that it’s okay that her brain sees words a little differently. After all, everyone is unique and learns in their own special ways.
With Mr. Daniels’ help and the support of two very special friends, Ally begins to have confidence in herself for the first time. She may not be the best reader in the world, but she’s working on it. In the meantime, she’s learning to stand up for herself and her friends and appreciate all of the great things in her life.
Ally and her friends are realizing that being different isn’t a bad thing. Differences keep things interesting. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”
Fish in a Tree is an amazing book that should be shared with all students (and teachers) in upper elementary and middle grades. It’s wonderful for anyone who’s ever felt like an outcast, especially those students who may struggle with dyslexia (the source of Ally’s frustrations with reading).
This book is also great for anyone who has ever had to deal with a bully. Ally and her friends have daily run-ins with mean girls and others who ridicule them, but they learn that their friendship is stronger than anything. They also realize that kindness goes a long way in changing things for the better…and this is a lesson everyone could stand to learn.
In closing, I cannot say enough good things about Fish in a Tree. I will be recommending it for my next faculty book club selection and encouraging everyone I know to give it a read. It’s excellent.
If you’d like more information on Fish in a Tree, visit author Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s website. You can also connect with the author on Twitter and view the awesome book trailer below. I hope you all enjoy this book as much as I did!