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Fish in a Tree
Cover of Fish in a Tree
Fish in a Tree
A New York Times Bestseller!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...
A New York Times Bestseller!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...
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Description-

  • A New York Times Bestseller!
    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.
    From the Hardcover edition.
 

Awards-

Excerpts-

  • From the book Chapter 1: In Trouble Again

    It's always there. Like the ground underneath my feet.
    "Well, Ally? Are you going to write or aren't you?" Mrs. Hall asks.
    If my teacher were mean it would be easier.
    "C'mon," she says. "I know you can do it."
    "What if I told you that I was going to climb a tree using only my lips? Would you say I could do it then?"
    Oliver laughs, throwing himself on his desk like it's a fumbled football.
    I see the world as mind movies in my head that are silly and exaggerated. But they are private and only for me. For Oliver everything is exaggerated on the outside so everyone sees.
    Shay groans. "Ally, why can't you just act normal for once?"
    Near her, Albert, a bulky kid who's worn the same thing every day—a dark t-shirt that reads, Flint—sits up straight. Like he's waiting for a firecracker to go off.
    Mrs. Hall sighs. "C'mon, now. I'm only asking for one page describing yourself."
    I can't think of anything worse than having to describe myself. I'd rather write about something more positive. Like throwing up at your own birthday party.
    "It's important," she says. "It's so your new teacher can get to know you."
    I know that, and it's exactly why I don't want to do it. Teachers are like the machines that take quarters for bouncy balls. You know what you're going to get. Yet, you don't know, too.
    I fold my arms and close my eyes. Hoping that when I open them she'll be gone. But she's still there.
    "And," she says. "All that doodling of yours, Ally. If you weren't drawing all the time, your work might be done. Please put it away."
    Embarrassed, I slide my drawings underneath my blank writing assignment. I've been drawing pictures of myself being shot out of a cannon. It would be easier than school. Less painful.
    "C'mon," she says moving my lined paper toward me. "Just do your best."
    Seven schools in seven years and they're all the same. Whenever I do my best, they tell me I don't try hard enough. Too messy. Careless spelling. Annoyed that the same word is spelled different ways on the same page. And the headaches. I always get headaches from looking at the brightness of dark letters on white pages for too long.
    I tap my pencil, thinking about how we had to dress up as our favorite book character for Halloween last week. I came as Alice in Wonderland, from the book my grandpa read to me a ton of times. Shay and her shadow, Jessica, called me Alice in Blunderland all day.
    Mrs. Hall clears her throat.
    The rest of the class is getting tired of me again. Chairs slide. Loud sighs. Maybe they think I can't hear their words: Freak. Dumb. Loser.
    I wish she'd just go hang by Albert, the walking Google page who'd get a better grade than me if he just blew his nose into the paper.
    The back of my neck heats up.
    "Oliver. Get back in your seat," she says and I'm grateful that he draws attention away. But then she's back to me. "Ally?"
    I don't get it. She always let me slide. It must be because these are for the new teacher and she can't have one missing.
    I stare at her big stomach. "So, did you decide what you were going to name the baby?" I ask. Last week we got her talking about baby names for a full half hour of social studies.
    "C'mon, Ally. No more stalling."
    I don't answer.
    "I mean it," she says and I know she does.
    I watch a mind movie of her taking a stick and drawing a line in the dirt between us under a bright blue sky. She's dressed as a sheriff and I'm wearing black and white prisoner stripes. My mind does that all the time—shows me these movies that seem so real that they carry me away inside of them. They are a relief from my real life.
    I steel up inside,...

Reviews-

  • DOGO Books data_ninja - Ally is a regular girl. Regular clothes, regular hair, regular everything. Well, actually, that's what she looks like. Her father is deployed in the army, her brother has quite an eye for valuable coins and things related to fixing cars, and she herself can't read. To her, written words look like "shimmering black beetles marching across the page." She may not be able to read, but she can draw expertly well. Mister Daniels is a substitute teacher for Ally's class. He is an extraordinary person and an awesome teacher. He helps her learn that she is not worthless. Albert is a textbook nerd. Likes Star Trek and video games. Has 5 shirts that are the same. He is a "walking Google page". He is unusual, but when he makes some friends, his weird ways are explained. Shay is a total bully. Mean and cruel to people just because they stand out. Her friend Julia is her little minion, going along with whatever she says. Julia would jump out of a plane without a parachute after Shay. Keisha is a very nice girl. She stands up for Ally when she gets bullied and befriends Ally when she has no friends. How these characters and much more, interact with each other? You'll just have to read the book to find out.
  • Publisher's Weekly

    December 1, 2014
    Sixth-grader Ally Nickerson has been to seven schools in seven years, and the same thing happens at each one: she spends more time in the principal’s office than in class. The pattern is repeating at Ally’s current school until a long-term substitute teacher, Mr. Daniels, discovers that Ally is acting out to hide the fact that she can’t read. Ally is deeply ashamed and has bought into what others have told her—that she’s dumb and worthless—but Mr. Daniels helps her understand that she has dyslexia and see her talents and intelligence. As Ally’s fragile confidence grows, she connects with two other classroom outsiders, Albert and Keisha. Hunt (One for the Murphys) leans heavily on familiar types (a two-dimensional mean-girl and her sycophantic best friend, a teacher with unconventional methods) and a surfeit of relevant metaphors (coins valuable because of their flaws, former planet Pluto—“Too small. Too far away. Orbit not just right”—and so on). Nevertheless, her depiction of Ally’s learning struggles is relatable, and Ally’s growth and relationships feel organic and real. Ages 10–up. Agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

  • Kirkus

    December 1, 2014
    Hunt draws a portrait of dyslexia and getting along. Ally Nickerson, who's passed through seven schools in seven years, maintains a Sketchbook of Impossible Things. A snowman in a furnace factory is more plausible than imagining herself doing something right-like reading. She doesn't know why, but letters dance and give her headaches. Her acting out to disguise her difficulty causes headaches for her teachers, who, oddly, never consider dyslexia, even though each notices signs like inconsistent spellings of the same word. Ally's confusion is poignant when misunderstandings like an unintentional sympathy card for a pregnant teacher make her good intentions backfire, and readers will sympathize as she copes with the class "mean girls." When a creative new teacher, Mr. Daniels, steps in, the plot turns more uplifting but also metaphor-heavy; a coin with a valuable flaw, cupcakes with hidden letters, mystery boxes and references to the Island of Misfit Toys somewhat belabor the messages that things aren't always what they seem and everyone is smart in their own ways. Despite emphasis on "thinking outside the box," characters are occasionally stereotypical-a snob, a brainiac, an unorthodox teacher-but Ally's new friendships are satisfying, as are the recognition of her dyslexia and her renewed determination to read. Fans of R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012) will appreciate this feel-good story of friendship and unconventional smarts. (Fiction. 10-12)

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from January 1, 2015

    Gr 4-6-In her second middle grade novel (One for the Murphys, 2012), Mullaly Hunt again paints a nuanced portrayal of a sensitive, smart girl struggling with circumstances beyond her control. Ally is great at math, and her ability to visualize moving pictures makes her an amazing artist, but she has a terrible secret: reading is almost impossible for her. By using her wits and adopting a troublemaking persona, she's been able to avoid anyone finding out a truth she is deeply ashamed of, but a new teacher at school seems to see right through the defenses she's built. While Ally struggles to accept the help that Mr. Daniels offers, she also deals with a father deployed in the Middle East, crushing loneliness, and an authentically awful set of mean girls at school. Ally's raw pain and depression are vividly rendered, while the diverse supporting cast feels fully developed. As the perceptive teacher who finally offers the diagnosis of dyslexia, Mr. Daniels is an inspirational educator whose warmth radiates off the page. Best of all, Mullaly Hunt eschews the unrealistic feel-good ending for one with hard work and small changes. Ally's journey is heartwarming but refreshingly devoid of schmaltz.-Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla, Darien Library, CT

    Copyright 2015 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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