Fish in a Tree BookLast summer, Lynda Mullaly Hunt revealed the cover of her second novel, Fish in a Tree (Grades 5-8, Level W, Lexile 550). She described the book as, “…a love letter to teachers—to one in particular—and to all others like him.” She had me hooked by the second sentence. I am pretty sure I ordered the book that day.

When you first meet Ally Nickerson, her behavior may frustrate you. You might think she is just a middle-school troublemaker or the class clown: purposely getting kicked out of class, faking arm injuries, writing essays comprised of one single word repeated over and over: Why? Why? Why? But as you get to know her, you realize there is a lot more to Ally than meets the eye.

Ally has dyslexia. But she doesn’t know it. No one does. Her military family moves frequently, resulting in seven schools in seven years. She is there long enough for teachers to notice her “messy writing,” her “careless spelling” and her “lack of effort.” She imagines what everyone thinks about her. Freak. Dumb. Loser.

But when Mrs. Hall goes on maternity leave, Mr. Daniel walks into Ally’s life. And for the very first time, Ally has someone who sees past the poor reading, terrible spelling and impudent behavior. Mr. Daniel sees her artistic talent and her clever thinking, and he begins to prove to her that she is not stupid, that there is a reason why reading gives her headaches and why letters squiggle and dance across the page. He gives her help, hope and the confidence to become the person she desperately wants to be.

There is so much to love about Fish in a Tree. Ally Nickerson made me laugh as she envisions life in her Sketchbook of Impossible Things–the place where the crazy pictures in her head come alive through her drawings. I applauded the friendships and alliances she develops with courageous Keisha and science-minded Albert. I worried for her as she faces fitting in, being bullied and missing her dad. And I admired her for having the courage to persevere no matter what in order to overcome a learning disability.

Booksource Scout Award *Fish in a Tree has been nominated for a Scout Award, an internal Booksource award. Booksource will nominate books throughout the year and then ask readers to vote on their favorites to determine the winners. The Scout Award is named in honor of the main character of Booksource’s most popular title, To Kill a Mockingbird. Read more about the awards here.

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