Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt is one of our school’s considerations for the grade nine de-streamed classroom. These are my thoughts on whether or not we should include this book in our book club selection. To learn more about our Inclusive Classroom Library Project, please click here.
A Brief Plot Outline
Ally is a grade six student who has changed schools several times because her father is in the military. Along the way, she has fooled her teachers. They think she’s a smart-alecky troublemaker.
In truth, Ally is gifted in mathematics and art but can barely read because she has dyslexia. As a result, Ally thinks of herself as stupid.
It isn’t until an unusual new teacher, Mr. Daniels, recognizes Ally’s learning differences. Even though there are challenges and bumps along the way, he tailors his lessons to help all students, especially Ally.
Ally finds success. Her sense of self-worth improves, and she even wants to help her brother, who has similar difficulties.
Fish in a Tree is a very heartwarming book. As a teacher, I think it’s the kind of story we want to be a part of, where we make significant differences in the lives of our students.
I think it also tells us quite a bit about the thought processes of students working with learning difficulties. It’s easy to see when someone struggles with some aspect of learning. Knowing how it emotionally and psychologically impacts them is much more challenging. This book examines those deeper emotional issues.
Even though it is about a grade six class, the story seems relevant to the high school environment.
Who Will Like This?
I think a long list of readers would enjoy this book. Students who struggle with a learning difficulty will see value in the book. Struggling readers (but perhaps not identified) will appreciate how easy this book is to read. And educators will want to read this one as well.
I believe the setting, a grade six class, is a potential problem. Do grade nine students want to read a book about grade six students?
Generally, I don’t think that they do. This book may be an exception, though. It might be a good opportunity for these students to reflect on their own experiences in elementary school. Besides, these are undoubtedly the same struggles they still encounter daily in high school.
I think this book is a good option. We’ll see how it stacks up to other novels in the People Living with Disabilities book category, but I did enjoy the book, and I think it is a valuable asset in our book club selection.