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Fish in a Tree Hardcover – February 5, 2015
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From School Library Journal
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
* “Unforgettable and uplifting. . . . Deals with the hardships of middle school in a funny, yet realistic and thoughtful manner. Ally has a great voice, she is an unforgettable, plucky protagonist that the reader roots for from page one. This novel is a must-have.”—School Library Connection, STARRED REVIEW
* “Filled with a delightful range of quirky characters and told with heart, the story also explores themes of family, friendship, and courage in its many forms. . . . It has something to offer for a wide-ranging audience. . . . Offering hope to those who struggle academically and demonstrating that a disability does not equal stupidity, this is as unique as its heroine.”—Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
* “Mullaly Hunt again paints a nuanced portrayal of a sensitive, smart girl struggling with circumstances beyond her control. . . . Ally’s raw pain and depression are vividly rendered, while the diverse supporting cast feels fully developed. . . . 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.”—School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
“[Hunt’s] depiction of Ally’s learning struggles is relatable, and Ally’s growth and relationships feel organic and real.”—Publishers Weekly
“Poignant. . . . Emphasis on ‘thinking outside the box’ . . . 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 will appreciate this feel-good story of friendship and unconventional smarts.”
“Reminiscent of Polacco’s wonderful Thank You, Mr. Falker. . . . Ally’s feeling of loneliness and desire to fit in will resonate with young teen readers, as many share those feelings without the difficulty of dyslexia. . . . A tribute to teachers who go the extra mile to reach every student. . . . A touching story with an important message.”—Voice of Youth Advocates
“Entertaining dialogue . . . Ally’s descriptions of her ‘mind movies’ are creative and witty. . . . The treatment of a group of sixth-graders with various quirks who face down their bullies extends the book’s interest beyond the immediate focus on dyslexia.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Readers will . . . cheer for this likable girl.”
—The Horn Book
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I just finished this as a read-aloud to my 8-year-old 2nd grader over spring break. She and I both loved it. Don't waste a second pro and conning this purchase. It's a fun book with memorable characters that packs a great message. You can't do better.