Tuesday, February 2, 2016

FISH IN A TREE by Linda Lullaly Hunt.  New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015. 288p. ISBN 978-0399162596 hc. $16.99.   Gr. 4-7    JUV FIC
Ally dreads going to school because she can't read and doesn't want anyone to know.  So far, she's fooled all her teachers and kept other students at arm's length to cleverly hide her secret.  Ally reaches a low point when she chooses an inappropriate greeting card for her departing teacher because she can't read the message.  On top of that, there's a new teacher, Mr. Daniels, to size up the very next day.  Ally thinks he's easy to fool, when he's really the first teacher who recognizes the signs of her reading disability.  He also offers to work with her after school and begins to build up her self esteem in the classroom. Mr. Daniels sums up her learning disability with a phrase that also sums up his rationale for teaching: "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.”  As Ally's confidence grows, she reaches out to other students to form alliances and friendships.  Keisha the baker, Albert the scientist, and Oliver the talker, all good readers to begin with, also share some of their strengths and challenges in the classroom.   If all teachers were as observant about how students learn as Mr. Daniels, the dyslexic students of the world  might learn to read a lot earlier and have better academic experiences.  What a guy (even though he's fictional)!
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

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