Monday, January 21, 2019

Fish In a Tree by Lynda Mullay Hunt

Fish In a Tree by Lynda Mullay Hunt
Published 2015 Puffin

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.

This is an example of a book I knew nothing about, except that all of a sudden schools started ordering it, class sets of it, so it quickly moved to the top of me TBR pile.  As you can see it's not a new book, published in 2015, I am three years late to the party...but better late than never, because I loved this book.

Ally feels dumb every day.  She knows she is actually quite smart, but the fact that she can't read, and struggles to write make life pretty tough.  She is from a military family, so has had to change schools a lot.  This has meant she has kept these issues a secret, teacher's just think she doesn't try, and she doesn't let on that there's more of a problem.  Then she gets a new teacher,  Mr Daniels, and it doesn't take long for him to figure out what the problem see, Ally has Dyslexia.

In my job I hear about Dyslexia a lot, but this book made me really stop and think what it was like to BE dyslexic, and the struggles children have, and how it can make them feel so useless.

See this passage to see what I mean:

Page 138
“Look, “ I say. “When you get on your bike, don’t you expect it to hold you up? Not fall apart when you pedal?”
“Yeah. So what?”
“Imagine if every single time you got on your bike, you had to worry that the wheels would come off.  And every time you ride, they do. But you still have to ride. Every day. And then you have to watch everyone watch you as the bike goes to pieces underneath you. With everyone thinking that it’s your fault and you’re the worst bike rider in the world.”
“Why in the world are you talking about bikes and wheels coming off?”
“My brain, “ I say, leaning my forehead against the cold wall. “My brain will never do what I want it to do.”

And this one.. giving an explanation of the title of the book.

Page 159
“Now, don’t be so hard on yourself, okay?  You know, a wise person once said, ‘Everyone is smart in different ways.  But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life thinking that it’s stupid.’”

It's not just a book about dyslexia though.  It's about friendship, and finding 'your people'.  Ally starts to realise that everyone has something going on in their lives that, at times, might make them feel different or 'less than'...and having the right people around you can make all the difference.

Lynda Mullay Hunt has an amazing way with characters and voice, and Ally is one of those characters that will stay with me always.

If you're a fan of books like Wonder or Out of Mind you should give this one a go.

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