Writing to you from humid Houston, Texas. Am here visiting my sister Valerie and her family for a few days. Then Valerie and I are driving up to Dallas for the Texas Library Association annual conference. Three days of programs by day, scrapbooking together by night. Today, I am looking at my progress on the “Book by Book” reading challenge hosted by Kristen and Rachel. This month’s prompt was to read a book with ‘a green cover’. Probably should have gone to a brick and mortar book store and scoured the shelves there for a book that fit the bill. But instead, I scoured the virtual shelves of Amazon and Barnes and Noble, looking for a book with a green cover. Not a terribly time-efficient way of finding a volume to satisfy this prompt.
The cover on the book I read wasn’t a true green. But one woman’s teal is another woman’s green. Or something like that.
Fish In A Tree
The Fine Print
- Age Range: 10 and up
- Grade Level: 5 – 6
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Puffin Books; Reprint edition (March 28, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-13: 978-0142426425
- Amazon average customer review:
- Goodread’s average customer review: 4.29 out of five stars
“Unforgettable and uplifting. . . . Deals with the hardships of middle school in a funny, yet realistic and thoughtful manner. Ally has a great voice, she is an unforgettable, plucky protagonist that the reader roots for from page one. This novel is a must-have.”—School Library Connection, starred review
“Reminiscent of Polacco’s wonderful Thank You, Mr. Falker. . . . Ally’s feeling of loneliness and desire to fit in will resonate with young teen readers, as many share those feelings without the difficulty of dyslexia. . . . A tribute to teachers who go the extra mile to reach every student. . . . A touching story with an important message.”—Voice of Youth Advocates
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 is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. [source]
…what really gets me is that in order for Mr. Daniels to come up with this plan, he must have thought of me outside of school — when he didn’t have to think of me. I bet other teachers have never let me sit in their head one second longer than they need to.
Fish in a Tree is the story of sixth grader Ally, a bright, likable little girl who has always struggled in school. After a misunderstanding with her homeroom teacher, Ally is moved to Mr. Daniels’s class. Where she once again becomes the target of unkind remarks hurled by a number of other students. Teasing Ally about how poorly she reads aloud, how unsuccessfully she wrestles with writing. And once again, Ally retreats, continuing to find ways around doing assignments, answering questions in class, interacting with the other children. Until Mr. Daniels begins to understand what is really going on with Ally.
About that same time, Ally lets her guard down a little with her new teacher. She watches the compassionate relationship Mr. Daniels has developed with another student enabling him to be more successful in school. She appreciates the way her teacher maintains the upper hand with snippy Shay and her followers, reining in their insensitive, mumbled comments about Ally and several of the other less popular children.
Once Mr. Daniels earns Ally’s trust, he is able to diagnose the dyslexia that has kept her from being able to demonstrate how very intelligent she is. And in doing so, empowers Ally to help someone dear to her who has the same diagnosis.
So perfectly developed were the students and teachers in Fish in a Tree, it was obvious that author Lynda Mullaly Hunt was first a teacher. She captures the typical middle school classroom setting accurately with the true-to-life characters she develops. As well as through the interactions she creates between the main and secondary characters. In my 28+ years in public education, I have been honored to work with several Mr. Daniels-type teachers and as many or more like Ally’s first homeroom teacher, Ms. Hall. I have witnessed, firsthand, the enormous effort it is for some children to read and write.
Wish I’d had Fish in a Tree to read with my oldest daughter Brennyn when she was in elementary school. In second grade, her teacher and I began to realize the difficulty Brennyn had in sounding out words and in writing some of her letters and numbers. Although, she was never identified as dyslexic, my daughter had many of the same struggles as Ally. She was so very bright but demonstrating that intelligence was such a battle for her at times. Brennyn, like Ally, could speak so well, had an amazing vocabulary but there was some disconnect between her brain and the written word.
Finally, in an effort to explain what was causing her issues with reading, Brennyn told me the letters in books looked like ants moving off the page. In the video below, you can see some of the print distortions dyslexic children and those with certain reading problems experience.
My sister, Valerie, was a reading specialist at the time and she had learned about colored overlays being developed to help children with reading problems. The overlays helped minimize the print distortions that some children experienced.
Children with different reading issues preferred different color overlays. Brennyn seemed to prefer blue. And said a blue overlay helped keep the words on the page.
Today my daughter is a very successful neonatal nurse who does amazing things everyday. Brennyn has learned coping mechanisms and checks and balances for what remains of her reading difficulties. I couldn’t be prouder of her. And we are watching for signs in my second grade granddaughter Cadence that may indicate she may, too, have a similar struggle.
Meet Lynda Mullaly Hunt on her webpage, here. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page where you can select the typeface that best matches your reading preference. There’s even a font choice called ‘open dyslexic’. Check it out while you are there.
Learn more about the use of color overlays and other strategies for struggling readers, here, through the Irlen Institute. And if you know a child who has difficulties reading, suggest Fish in a Tree to them. Sometimes knowing you are not alone, helps people reach out for help.
What kind of a student were you? Was there a subject with which you had a particular struggle? Did reading come easily to you? I remember my mom saying she was going to cover the illustrations in the first books I learned to read. I was so easily distracted by the art and anything else going on in the world around me. Still am. Colored overlays probably won’t help!! Would be like wearing rose colored glasses, I think. And would just makes things that much more fun to look at.
Thank you for sharing some of your day right here with me. Fish in a Tree has so many great messages and teaching points, that it is a wonderful book all readers can learn something from. Hope you will check it out.
Hugs and kisses,