A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Ally has always been good at drawing, but she has a secret: She never quite learned how to read. Instead, she came up with a series of clever stalls and distractions to get out of it. But now, she has a new teacher, Mr. Daniels, more attentive than most, who seems determined to meet her where she is and find an alternate path to learning. But with other kids such as Shay always bullying and the lifelong shame Ally has felt about what she sees as her shortcomings, she's not sure if it's possible to ever "cure dumb."
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Fish in the Tree's remarkable portrayal of a learning disability. How are learning disabilities usually portrayed in media? Does this account feel more accurate to you? Why, or why not?
Why are stories about teachers such as Mr. Daniels so popular? Which other stories have you read about famous teachers? Have you ever had a teacher like him?
Does Fish in a Tree change your mind about how we define intelligence? How do you think we should define it?
- Author: Lynda Mullaly Hunt
- Genre: School
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
- Publication date: February 5, 2015
- Number of pages: 288
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: March 22, 2021
Our editors recommend
For kids who love coming-of-age books and stories about learning difficulties
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.