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Fish in a Tree

Fish in a Tree

By Lynda Mullaly Hunt

 Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2015)

Ally Nickerson may be well spoken and have a great sense of humor, but something is not right. Why is this sixth grader spending so much time in the principal's office? Why is she doing such impulsive and destructive things? Why do the mean girls, Shay and Jessica, continually torment her? It's not just that she is a new girl in school, though attending seven schools in seven years has taken its toll. There is something else. When her teacher goes on maternity leave, Ally humiliates herself by giving Mrs. Hall a sympathy card rather than the expected baby card. She is not trying to be cruel; she simply cannot read, and for some reason, no one has discovered this until now. When substitute teacher Mr. Daniels arrives, with his new instructional techniques and his love for his "Fantasticos" (i.e., students), Ally knows things are going to change. This has all the required parts of a school story: the mean girls, the quirky but lovable boys, the new BFF who sticks up for herself and others, and the heroic teacher. These secondary characters add richness to the story and help Ally, who is telling her own tale in the first person, to grow as a learner and person. While the resolution to Ally's struggles with reading and social acceptance happens too quickly, readers will nevertheless cheer for this likable girl. robin smith