Fish in a Tree

Fish in a Tree

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A New York Times Bestseller!

The author of the beloved One for the Murphys gives readers an emotionally-charged, uplifting novel that will speak to anyone who’s ever thought there was something wrong with them because they didn’t fit in.
“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.”
Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions.  She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781524774950
Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/03/2017
Edition description: Unabridged
Sales rank: 169,709
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 5.80(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Lynda Mullaly Hunt ( has received many honors for her debut novel, One for the Murphys, which is on over twenty state award lists, including Bank Street’s 2013 Best Books of the Year. She’s a former teacher, and holds writers retreats for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, two children, impetuous beagle, and beagle-loathing cat.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: In Trouble Again
It’s always there. Like the ground underneath my feet.
“Well, Ally? Are you going to write or aren’t you?” Mrs. Hall asks.
If my teacher were mean it would be easier.
“C’mon,” she says. “I know you can do it.”
“What if I told you that I was going to climb a tree using only my lips? Would you say I could do it then?”
Oliver laughs, throwing himself on his desk like it’s a fumbled football.
I see the world as mind movies in my head that are silly and exaggerated. But they are private and only for me. For Oliver everything is exaggerated on the outside so everyone sees.
Shay groans. “Ally, why can’t you just act normal for once?”
Near her, Albert, a bulky kid who’s worn the same thing every day—a dark t-shirt that reads, Flint—sits up straight. Like he’s waiting for a firecracker to go off.
Mrs. Hall sighs. “C’mon, now. I’m only asking for one page describing yourself.”
I can’t think of anything worse than having to describe myself. I’d rather write about something more positive. Like throwing up at your own birthday party.
“It’s important,” she says. “It’s so your new teacher can get to know you.”
I know that, and it’s exactly why I don’t want to do it. Teachers are like the machines that take quarters for bouncy balls. You know what you’re going to get. Yet, you don’t know, too.
I fold my arms and close my eyes. Hoping that when I open them she’ll be gone. But she’s still there.
“And,” she says. “All that doodling of yours, Ally. If you weren’t drawing all the time, your work might be done. Please put it away.”
Embarrassed, I slide my drawings underneath my blank writing assignment. I’ve been drawing pictures of myself being shot out of a cannon. It would be easier than school. Less painful.
“C’mon,” she says moving my lined paper toward me. “Just do your best.”
Seven schools in seven years and they’re all the same. Whenever I do my best, they tell me I don’t try hard enough. Too messy. Careless spelling. Annoyed that the same word is spelled different ways on the same page. And the headaches. I always get headaches from looking at the brightness of dark letters on white pages for too long.
I tap my pencil, thinking about how we had to dress up as our favorite book character for Halloween last week. I came as Alice in Wonderland, from the book my grandpa read to me a ton of times. Shay and her shadow, Jessica, called me Alice in Blunderland all day.
Mrs. Hall clears her throat.
The rest of the class is getting tired of me again. Chairs slide. Loud sighs. Maybe they think I can’t hear their words: Freak. Dumb. Loser.
I wish she’d just go hang by Albert, the walking Google page who’d get a better grade than me if he just blew his nose into the paper.
The back of my neck heats up.
“Oliver. Get back in your seat,” she says and I’m grateful that he draws attention away. But then she’s back to me. “Ally?”
I don’t get it. She always let me slide. It must be because these are for the new teacher and she can’t have one missing.
I stare at her big stomach. “So, did you decide what you were going to name the baby?” I ask. Last week we got her talking about baby names for a full half hour of social studies.
“C’mon, Ally. No more stalling.”
I don’t answer.
“I mean it,” she says and I know she does.
I watch a mind movie of her taking a stick and drawing a line in the dirt between us under a bright blue sky. She’s dressed as a sheriff and I’m wearing black and white prisoner stripes. My mind does that all the time—shows me these movies that seem so real that they carry me away inside of them. They are a relief from my real life.
I steel up inside, willing myself to do something I don’t really want to do. To escape this teacher who’s holding on and won’t let go.
I pick up my pencil and her body relaxes, probably relieved that I’ve given in.
But, instead, knowing she loves clean desks and things just so, I grip my pencil with a hard fist. And scribble all over my desk.
“Ally!” She steps forward quick. “Why would you do that?”
I can tell the scribbles to her are like kryptonite to Superman. I was right. She can’t stand it.
“What are you talking about? I didn’t do that,” I say pointing at the circular scribbles that are big on top and small on the bottom. It looks like a tornado and I wonder if I meant to draw a picture of my insides. I look back up at her. “It was there when I sat down.”
The laughter starts—but they’re not laughing because they think I’m funny.
I hear Suki sigh, so I glance over at her. She turns away as we make eye contact. She’s holding one of her small wooden blocks. She has a collection of them that she keeps in a box and I see her take one out when she gets nervous. She’s nervous now.
“I can tell that you’re upset, Ally,” Mrs. Hall says.
I am not hiding that as well as I need to.
“She’s such a freak,” Shay says in one of those loud whispers that everyone is meant to hear.
Oliver is drumming on his desk now. Suki sighs again.
“That’s it,” Mrs. Hall finally says. “To the office. Now.”
I wanted this but now I am having second thoughts.
Everyone laughs again. She puts up her hand. “Anyone else who makes a sound gives up their recess.” The room is quiet.
“Ally. I said to the office.”
I can’t go see our principal, Mrs. Silver, again. In the two months I was in this school last year, I was in her office so much I thought they were going to hang up a banner that said, “Welcome, Ally!”
I’m lucky Mrs. Hall is such a pushover. “I’m sorry,” I say, actually meaning it. “I’ll do my work. I promise.”
She sighs. “OK Ally, but if that pencil stops moving, you’re going.”
She moves me to the reading table next to a Thanksgiving bulletin board about being grateful. Meanwhile, she sprays my desk with cleaner. Glancing at me like she’d like to spray me with cleaner. Scrub off the dumb.
I squint a bit hoping the lights will hurt my head less. And then I try to hold my pencil the way she wants instead of the weird way my hand wants to.
I write with one hand and shield my paper with the other. I know I better keep the pencil moving, so I write the word, “Why?” over and over from the top of the page to the very bottom.
One, because I know how to spell it right and, two, because I’m hoping someone will finally give me an answer.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 In Trouble Again 1

Chapter 2 Yellow Card 6

Chapter 3 Never up to Me 11

Chapter 4 Bird in a Cage 16

Chapter 5 Silver Dollars and Wooden Nickels 24

Chapter 6 Triple-Sided Coin 30

Chapter 7 No Grandpas Here 35

Chapter 8 Real Trouble 39

Chapter 9 Bag Full of Nothing 43

Chapter 10 Promises, Promises… 53

Chapter 11 Scrambled Egg 58

Chapter 12 What's Your Problem, Albert? 64

Chapter 13 Trouble with Flowers 70

Chapter 14 Boxed in and Boxed Out 75

Chapter 15 Ungreased Gears 82

Chapter 16 What I've Got 88

Chapter 17 Misfit Lunch 91

Chapter 18 Truths and Untruths 96

Chapter 19 Not-So-Sweet Secret 101

Chapter 20 Is This a Good Thing? 108

Chapter 21 Butterfly Wishes 114

Chapter 22 No Way to Treat a Queen 119

Chapter 23 Words That Breathe 122

Chapter 24 Imaginary Hero 126

Chapter 25 Celebration or Devastation? 133

Chapter 26 Stalling 137

Chapter 27 Half-Baked Afternoon 141

Chapter 28 Deal of a Lifetime 145

Chapter 29 Fish in a Tree 150

Chapter 30 Miserable King 160

Chapter 31 Lots of Ways Home 164

Chapter 32 Screen Time 168

Chapter 33 Possibilities 174

Chapter 34 Birth of a Star 178

Chapter 35 A Picture is Worth a Gazillion Words 185

Chapter 36 In the Game of Life… 190

Chapter 37 A Chicken, a Wolf, and a Problem 193

Chapter 38 Loser for President 198

Chapter 39 To-Shay 202

Chapter 40 Tears of Different Kinds 209

Chapter 41 Not-So-Secret Letter 211

Chapter 42 The Gifts of No Excuses, Scotch Tape, and Antibiotics 217

Chapter 43 Set the World on Fire 223

Chapter 44 Tales of a Sixth Grade Something 225

Chapter 45 My Brother's Question 228

Chapter 46 Flying Tigers and Baby Elephants 232

Chapter 47 Great Minds Don't Think Alike 236

Chapter 48 Oliver's idea of Lucky 244

Chapter 49 I See the Light 250

Chapter 50 A Hero's Job 253

Chapter 51 C-O-U-R-A-GEnius 260

Acknowledgments 269

Letter from the Author 273

Discussion Questions 275

The Sketchbook of Impossible Things 277

Customer Reviews

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Fish in a Tree 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book. I am a special education teacher. I think all teachers should read this book. It is also good for kids struggling with reading. They see that they are not alone. This book emphasizes that each person is special and unique. We all learn in a different ways, but that is okay.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely fell in love with this book. I work in education and found this to be an incredible account of what it feels like to suffer with dyslexia. I highly recommend for anyone who works in education to read this book. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fish in a Tree By Lynda Mullaly Hunt Fish in a Tree is a book about a young girl named Ally, who, to the naked eye, is your garden variety trouble maker. But deep down, her real trouble is with herself. Ally thinks that she’s dumb because she can’t read. When she opens a book, the letters move like little bugs, and create a big jumble of nothing. Along with the ruthless taunting of Shay and her clone Jessica, Ally thinks it’s just not possible to learn. But that is until she meets a few unlikely friends, a big realization, and a few troubles along the way. Characters: The characters of Ally, Shay, Keisha, Albert, and Mr. Daniels were strongly written realistic characters. They had good and bed qualities. For example, Ally was great at art and loved to learn, but she was also self-doubting and shy. Keisha was bold and fearless, but sometimes that big attitude got her in trouble. The antagonist Shay, was also very realistic. She was an archetype bully, only looking out for herself, insecure, and judgmental. Mr. Daniels, Ally’s new teacher, was a kind and understanding, but not very trusting teacher, who helps Ally learn about dyslexia and helps her to read. Overall, the characters in this story really helped move the plot ahead, and were crucial to the storyline. Plot: This story had a strong, yet overly dramatic plot. There was rising action and tension as Ally was picked on by other classmates, tried to make friends, and got thrown back in forth by her passionate struggle with reading. Then, as the story begins to reach its climax, Mr. Daniels suspects the real reason for Ally’s distaste for reading and writing. Then the climax is reached when Ally discovers dyslexia, and her problem is gradually resolved as she learns to read. By the end she has friends, a love for reading, and a happy life. It was overly dramatic though, making it appear as though Ally’s problem was a matter of like or death. But I guess that makes it seem even more realistic. Conflict: The conflict in this story was the best part. It was firmly grounded and made sense. The troubles and problems that Ally was facing made the story come to life. When she was mocked by Shay and Jessica, Ally felt torn down, but when she had to write, she felt scared. The difference of emotions for different trials helped the story’s flow, so that inner thinking could display all that was going through her mind, not just one emotion for every trial. I think that this conflict helped to develop Ally’s character, and showed clearly that Shay would be a static character, which means that she stays the same the whole time. Review: Overall Fish in a Tree was a great book. It was heartwarming and encouraging, and gave others insight into what it might be like to live a life where words and letters move. I would recommend this book for 8-15-year old’s. Good for any gender. Enjoy! A great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
dont like shay because shes so mean to ally and i jabent read this book on my nook but ive read it in school but i like shays friend i think her name is jessica but i like me (my name is shayna and my nick name is shay)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book because i feel like it can relate to some people today in the world. I liked this book so much that i decided to find some of her other books. This was a great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a good book and it is really fun to read and it is an exampel to trun you can'ts into can's
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think it’s a great book great blue stem, totally read it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a beautiful book of what you hope can happen in every classroom. A teacher who can see what a student needs and a student who, although certainly resistant at first, is willing to adapt and change because they see the teacher doing it, too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is an amazing book with a great and inspirational story behind it. You must read it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read this a while ago but it was really good!!!
Snophia More than 1 year ago
Fish In a Tree will take you on an amazing adventure through Ally Nickerson's life. In the beginning of the story, Ally can not read until she meets a teacher that can help her! Fish In a Tree is a great story that could take place of any kid. This book is very exciting and couldn't make me stop reading it. I wish their was a second book to continue and see what happens next to all the characters, especially Ally! Ally can show kids like her how anything can be possible!
aking22 More than 1 year ago
A Fish In A Tree was a great book. I would recommend this book to a classmate or a friend. I would give it four stars out of five. The book was about a girl named Ali who struggled with dyslexia. She had a hard time reading and felt like the words moved on the paper when she tried to read them. The kids in her class were mean to her because they thought she was stupid. She often made mistakes that hurt other people’s feelings, because she was unable to read. For example she gave a pregnant teacher at her school a sympathy card because she thought the teacher would like the yellow flowers on the front of the card. She didn’t realize it was a sympathy card because she couldn’t read the words on the card. She eventually made two friends in class and was able to tell them about her reading problems. She also had an amazing teacher who realized that she had dyslexia and he took classes so he could help her become a better reader. He invited her to come after school to do activities that would help her read such as chess. He told her that he would be able to help her read. He also told her that she could do anything that she set her mind to do, and that she was smarter than some of the other students in her own special way. At the end of the book her teacher explains what dyslexia is to the other students, and gives them an activity to do that shows them what it is like to have dyslexia. The kids in her class realize how amazing it is that she is able to read and they start having more respect for her and start being nicer to her. Later in the story Ali realizes that her brother is also struggling with dyslexia. She brings him to her teacher so that he can help her brother like he helped her. I also struggled with reading in elementary school and could relate to how Ali felt in the book. I would recommend this book, especially to anyone that struggled with reading or still struggles with reading. It proves that a great teacher who cares can make all the difference to a struggling student.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It tells about the struggles of some speical-aid kids and makes them know they're not alone
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fish in a twee is so amazing for any gender i recommend ages 9 to 13~possibly 15
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kiss ur hand 3 times, post this on three other books then look under ur pillow
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great Book!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book for anyone -youngvor old- who is involved in education on any level.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kimmiepoppins More than 1 year ago
I'm always a fan of Hunt's writing, but FISH IN A TREE spoke to me as a special educator and a mom of children gifted with dyslexia. I read this aloud to my three boys--that's how we roll in a dyslexic house-- and the kids loved it. They laughed right along with the interesting cast of characters. Albert with his Gordon Kormanesque ways was a fan favorite. Also, as I read through the book, there was lots of commentary about how relatable the book was to their own experiences--lots of head nodding at certain descriptions. But there was also a lot of relief that they've had more great teachers and positive experiences in their lives than Ally had previous to Mr. Daniels came along. *I'm sending out a *fist pump* to all the great teachers out there who are doing it right.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the worst books i have ever read. I had to read it for summer reading. I thought it would be good because my friend loved it. So boring at times. And it makes you want to cry because you feel bad for ally ( the main charcter) Would not tell y'all to buy it. If you really want to read it get it from the library.the one thing i liked about it was the message behind the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have only read the ftist three chapters but i love this book and cant wait to figure out her problem. This book reminds me of my all time favorite book wonder, i cant wait to see what happens next.