Sunday, June 25, 2017

#SneakPeekSunday - Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Title: Fish in a Tree
Author: Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
Published: February 5, 2015
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Pages: 288


The author of the beloved One for the Murphys gives readers an emotionally-charged, uplifting novel that will speak to anyone who’s ever thought there was something wrong with them because they didn’t fit in.

“Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.”

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. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.

Sneak Peek Review

I received a copy of this sneak peek from Nancy Paulsen Books through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

I still haven't learned my lesson about reading the book blurb before starting to read a sneak peek, but at least with Fish in a Tree, the things that the blurb would have told me were pretty easy to figure out just from the context clues. Granted, I wasn't sure if Ally was dyslexic or if she had some other less common issue with reading (she describes letters as swirling around on the page whereas it's my understanding that with dyslexia letters tend to just get flip flopped within words, but I only have a very basic understanding of dyslexia). While this is a problem that I believe would typically be figured out early on, because Ally's dad is in the military they move a lot, so Ally is always switching schools, and she slips through the cracks. The sneak peek says she's been in seven schools in seven years, so she's got to be in at least sixth grade (and I think that is the grade she's in based on the classroom dynamic). I'm astounded that a child could make it to sixth grade with dyslexia and no one would figure it out, but in her situation, I can accept that it happened. What fourth grade teacher gets a new kid mid school year and assumes that the behavior that seems like acting out is actually an inability to read? The kid doesn't have an IEP, nothing in her records indicates that she has problems with reading. Clearly she's just a problem child, right? 

Now I only just barely met Mr. Daniels in the sneak peek I read, but I like him (I'm supposed to like him I'm sure). Based on his reaction to Ally, and knowing that he discovers what is going on with her, I suspect that maybe he is also dyslexic, or that someone close to him growing up was. I just think that the fact that he came into the class mid-school year to take over while the class teacher is on maternity leave, and almost immediately suspects that there is more going on with Ally than she's letting on really indicates that he's pretty familiar with dyslexia and/or learning disabilities in general. And he's young and a substitute, so he likely doesn't have a whole lot of experience with teaching yet.   

I don't feel super compelled to finish reading this book. It's a middle grade book, so I feel like I can mostly fill in the major gaps in the rest of the story (I'm pretty good at predicting outcomes in middle grade books at this point in my life), I wouldn't be opposed to reading the rest of the book either though. However, I would absolutely buy this book for my children. Neither of them is dyslexic, but I think a book like this could likely help kids develop at least a little bit of empathy towards kids who learn differently than most, and since kids can sometimes be really mean, that would be a good thing. - Katie 

Buy the Book

About the Author

Lynda Mullaly Hunt ( has received many honors for her debut novel, One for the Murphys, which is on over twenty state award lists, including Bank Street’s 2013 Best Books of the Year. She’s a former teacher, and holds writers retreats for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, two children, impetuous beagle, and beagle-loathing cat.

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