AR Level: 3.7
AR Points: 7.0
AR Quiz Number: 172804
Lexile Level: 550
Page Count: 288
Working my way through this year's Sunshine State Young Reader Award contenders, I picked up a copy of Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. This middle grade novel, focuses on the journey of a young girl named Ally as she struggles through her school days. To Ally, the school is a confusing and disheartening place where she craftily works to conceal the fact that she cannot read...at least not very well.
Plagued with headaches and dizziness when trying to read or write, Ally becomes convinced that she is dumb and will always be that way... until the arrival of her new teacher Mr. Daniels. With his enthusiasm and ability to see to the heart of his students, will Mr. Daniels be able to help Ally tackle this seemingly impossible task of learning to read? Will she ever be able to see herself as anything other than dumb?
I enjoyed this book, and I think I came across it at just the right time. When reading this book, my school was undergoing a week long bullying prevention workshop, which focused on accepting others for who they are and strategies for dealing with bullies and our emotions while at school in an appropriate way. While Ally struggles to read, she has to deal with a bully at school who is catching on to her embarrassing secret. Throughout the text, Ally makes quirky new friends and together they help each other along through their various issues.
This is an excellent book to read aloud to a classroom of students. The tale of a struggling reader finally opening up and seeking out help, is bound to be meaningful to a number of students who feel they might be in the same boat. My only criticism is towards the subplot involving Ally and her friends' bullies. Instead of resolving issues with the bullies in a constructive way, they end up fighting, or "standing their ground", which is a counter productive idea for students to adopt in the long run. Still, teachers can use that negative resolution as a conversation starter, and brainstorm with students how our characters could have better solved their problems.
When book talking Fish in a Tree, my students mentioned that it reminded them of the plot of Wonder by R.J. Palacio , which I am ashamed to admit I have not yet read. I'll have to add it to the list!
For more on Fish in a Tree, check out Lynda Mullaly Hunt's website at: