Friday, June 12, 2015

Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, 2015

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“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. 

(288 pages)

I'm back to using speech recognition software to write my reviews. I can't tell you how frustrating this is - my own body is betraying me. For those of you who don't know, I fell off a horse last September and tore a ligament in my left (dominant) wrist. After a few months of splinting, I got an MRI in November and had surgery two weeks before Christmas. I spent about a month using speech recognition software because it was too hard to type school assignments, emails, and blog posts all with one hand. I've been off the software for a few months now, but in May I had three AP tests and this past Saturday I took the SAT. I guess I over did it, because my wrist hasn't felt this bad for a very long time. I'm back to speech recognition software, splints, and even using a sling when the pain is at its worst.

I've had a pretty hard time this last school year. My temporary disability has caused me stress, multiplied the effort it takes to complete an assignment, and very likely hurt my grades. In a way, this is sort of like Ally's dyslexia: she has spent her whole life stressing about her inability to read, laboring over what should have been simple assignments and getting terrible grades because she literally could not do the work. However, my struggles have been with a (hopefully!) temporary issue that has caused me physical pain. Ally's struggles have existed since she first began learning to read; her pain is not physical, which is often easier to deal with, but mental. She has grown up believing that she is stupid and worthless, living in fear of being discovered as the practically illiterate girl she really is. This mental and emotional pain is far and above anything that I have ever experienced, and hopefully ever will experience.

Because Ally doesn't just have dyslexia; she has spent her whole life hiding that dyslexia (though she doesn't know what it's called) from the world. She has moved often enough, because her father is in the military, that no one has ever caught on to the fact that she doesn't complete schoolwork because she can't, not because she is lazy or trying to be a troublemaker. She has grown shall around herself and is used to living very lonely life, a life of being teased and made fun of and getting sent to the principal's office. It is truly beautiful to watch her leave that shell behind. Hunt does a lovely job of showing how Ally blooms under the mentorship of a teacher who not only cares about her academic struggles, but about her emotional struggles as well.

I can't tell you how much I loved this book. You're just going to have to repeat yourself to discover what a gem it really is. The themes are serious but not overwhelmingly dark, the characters are nuanced and compelling, and Ally's dyslexia is painted in a very realistic light. By all means, go read this book!

2 comments:

  1. It sounds like you really can personally relate to this one, especially with the problem with your wrist lately amongst other things. I love the idea of this book and how it turns out that you can't judge everyone by the same rules and regulations. Everyone is individually different, which is why they should be individually treated as well. I like the sound of this book.

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    1. It's a wonderful book, so if you think you'd like it I'm sure you will. I had a hard time coming up with a good review for it (which is why I wound up rambling about my wrist . . . ), but it's really good.

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