KidsPost Summer Book Club: Clever girl hides struggles in ‘Fish in a Tree’

|     Abby McGanney Nolan     |

WHAT would you do if you were in sixth grade and couldn’t read or write as well as you thought everyone else could?

Ally Nickerson has been trying to hide her struggles, but a few classmates have been teasing her a lot lately.

Ally also realises that her teachers – and even the school principal – are getting frustrated with the ways she avoid doing her schoolwork.

The narrator of “Fish in a Tree”, Ally makes it clear from the start of the story that she would do the work if she could.

She is clever and observant, and has been able to hide her problem. Because she’s afraid there will be no solutions, Ally distracts herself with drawing and daydreaming.

She also misses her dad, who is stationed overseas in the military, and her grandfather, who died recently.

When a nice new teacher, Mr Daniels, takes over the classroom, Ally gets the feeling she is being watched more carefully and kindly. She worries that she will disappoint him, too.

At the same time, she becomes friendly with two classmates who don’t seem to care what other people think of them.

Will they turn away from her when they find out she has so much trouble with reading and writing?

Ally and her classmates come across as a lively group of kids. She says that Mr Daniels, unlike some other teachers, “actually seems to like that we’re different”.

You get the feeling that the author, a former teacher, enjoyed bringing the students to life as well as devising the interesting assignments Mr Daniels gives to the class.

He tries to help Ally and her classmates gain confidence so that they don’t feel, as the title says, like a fish in a tree. Text and Photo by The Washington Post