Book Review · Children

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt


Genre: Children
Number of Pages: 288
Publication Date: February 5, 2015

Rating: 4-star-review out of 5
Story Perspective: First-Person
Themes: Special Needs, Dyslexia, Bullying, Acceptance

downloadSixth-grader Ally has a secret that she kept for as long as she can remember. She can use her smarts to fool everyone. Though her disruptive behavior is just a cover-up to the real problem – Ally has extreme troubles in reading. Due to this, friendships are hard, school is uncomfortable, and overall self-esteem is extremely low.

New teacher, Mr. Daniels, comes in and puts a new spin in this sixth grade class. Could he be the tipping point in bettering Ally’s schooling?


Overall, this was a pleasure to read. It was an easy read filled with such great relatable themes that are woven in nicely into its steady plot.

My heart went out to Ally throughout the read. Even though some may argue – how could a sixth grader falls through the cracks so much without being put through some type of reading program, I would say it could unfortunately happen. I once knew a student who was pushed along and his mom was in denial of his reading ability. When he became my student, I noticed right away and after a series of meetings, tests, and plenty of evidence, his mom still didn’t believe that her child had reading problems. It was probably only two months of being with this student that all the evidence was gathered and presented before his mom switched her son’s school. Unfortunately, at that point it was out of my hands. 

The story’s classroom setup was one that included sixth grade as part of elementary school rather than middle school. I say this because it was clear that the students stayed with their teacher all day and clearly acted younger than typical middle school students. There were a cast of characters that brought up interesting features to the classroom. The “smart, but awkward” kid, “the pretty and shallow” bully, the hyperactive one, and much more. I liked that there was so much in this classroom because it deals with the reality that teachers have a lot to handle with the variety of students in the classroom while still trying to teach both academics and how to be good citizens.

I did feel that some of the character developing was lacking and some plot holes were scattered throughout. We get to know and understand Ally very well, but there times when I wished some of the supportive characters had more dimension. For instance, Ally’s older brother clearly also has some reading issues. The common factor is their mom and moving around a lot.

My questions about Ally’s mom that would add to the plot more are:

  • What caused her to ignore Ally’s third grade teacher’s warning?
  • Were there other warnings that Ally doesn’t know about, and therefore we don’t?
  • Why are both her children struggling and she can’t see it?
  • Does she struggle in reading herself or is she just in denial?
  • Maybe her husband being away is too much for her to deal with?

I think as a previous teacher, the question of ‘why?’ comes to my mind so many times. It would have been great to get Ally’s mother’s perspective, at least to some level.  There were couple of others, but the mom was the most important one for me to try to understand.

Overall, I enjoyed this read a lot and could easily see myself re-reading it in the future. It is one that is great for kids to read and learn more about dyslexia and how to build friendships, but would benefit from more character developing in some of the supporting characters.

Yes, I would. To both adults and children who enjoy school-based stories about a student overcoming a struggle.

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