A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Learning difficulties do not reflect intelligence; there are multiple paths to learning; hard work is as important as intelligence in succeeding; stand up for yourself; people have different strengths of equal value.
Positive Role Models
Mr. Daniels is a committed and sensitive educator who's attuned to each student's gifts and potential. Ally's a thoughtful, creative, sensitive girl who seeks to understand the world around her. Albert draws big connections about the world and is fiercely protective of his friends. Ally's mom and older brother are present and encouraging. There are a few bullies, but some are shown in a more complex way: as kids who face pressure at home to be perfect.
Violence & Scariness
A boy hits another boy in the stomach. A boy hits another boy in the face, knocking him down. A boy lifts another boy by the coat lapels and tosses him to the ground. A boy grabs a girl's arm and pushes her down. A boy dumps out a girl's purse.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A girl receives a love letter from a boy, asking her to meet.
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A girl insults other kids at school often, calling them "losers" or "freaks." Other name-calling includes "dumb" and "stupid." Multiple insults about clothing, parents' income, other students' abilities or intelligence.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Fish in a Tree is a tremendous, sensitive account of a middle school girl's struggle with dyslexia and her inspirational progress in learning to read once she's paired with the right teacher. It's a powerful testament to the many ways in which different people learn and absorb information that upends traditional notions of how we define intelligence, what it means to be truly gifted, and what a difference an attuned, sensitive teacher can make in a child's life. It's a perfect read for any child who's struggled with academics, parents who remember their own difficulties reading, or anyone interested in becoming more sensitive to or better educated about learning differences. There's some name-calling and some schoolyard-variety violence: hitting and knocking or pushing someone down.
Is It Any Good?
This book manages to take an issue that's hard to make compelling and gives it suspense and authenticity through powerful characters who really stick with you and make you feel for them. Ally's a tough, headstrong girl and a gifted artist who hasn't been told enough that her skills matter. But she thinks outside the box, cares about her family and peers, and has a unique way of thinking about the world, which she often sees in pictures. This captivating portrait, as well as her shame and discomfort at pushing past all the negative voices, both real and imagined, make you cheer her every step of the way as she progresses toward embracing her differences and committing to reading.
Kids who struggle to be good at school will find Fish in a Tree comforting and relatable. And the parents of those children, or adults who've struggled with learning disabilities themselves, will find so much here to be inspired by: the power of even one good teacher to change the course of your life, the power of one or two good friends to immunize you from the cruelties of your peers, and the power you have to change the narrative about yourself and focus on your gifts, not your shortcomings.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Our Editors Recommend
Books with Characters Who Have Physical Disabilities or Chronic Illnesses
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