Sunday, February 12, 2017

Fish in a Tree

Fish in a Tree
by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Synopsis:  "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's tired of being called "slow" and "loser," but she's afraid to ask for help; after all, she thinks, how can you cure dumb?

However, Ally's newest teacher sees the bright, creative kid beneath the troublemaker and helps to shine a light on her gifts.  Meanwhile, Ally gets to know tell-it-like-it-is Keisha and science-and facts-obsessed Albert, who also break the mold.  The three stand together against others who are not so kind.

As the outsiders begin to fit in, surprising things begin to happen in Ally's classroom that show her there's a lot more to her-and everyone-than a label, and that great minds don't always think alike.
from the book jacket

Review:  This book provides a look into a sixth grader who has made it thus far without teachers realizing that she can't read and without realizing that she has a disability.  Ally provides a front of an "I don't care" attitude and causes trouble so that she can distract from her academic struggles.  But the truth is Ally really does want to read and she is very hurt by comments that kids make about her.  Ally feels dumb because she can't read and the author helps us feel her pain.  Ally finally gets help when a maternity leave sub, Mr. Daniels arrives.  This is definitely a good book for the juvenile fiction reading crowd.

I had a couple problems with the book as a teacher however.  It blows my mind that no one in Ally's first 5 years of schooling caught that she couldn't read.  She has moved around a lot but I still think teachers would have noticed and tried to get her help earlier.  That seemed a bit unrealistic to me considering all the testing we do to assess student's levels.  Another problem I had with the book was that the kids seemed wise beyond their years.  Ally, Keisha, Albert, and Suki (another girl in the class) all seemed to always have an adage to help them through a situation.  Mr. Daniels was also an unrealistic maternity leave substitute.  I'm not sure I've ever met a substitute that is that enthusiastic and that willing to put it that much extra work.  Even once they figure out what is wrong with Ally, she does not seem to get support within the school day which is unrealistic as well.  All the problems aside, I rated this book more on what the intended audience would think of the book and not what an adult who is a teacher thinks of the book.

Rating: 4 stars

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