Book Review: Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

I debated whether to post this review here or on my general blog because the book isn’t actually published yet. I received a copy from the publisher to read and pass on to other readers (the list is growing). Since this blog cross-posts to Ars Longa, Vita Brevis, I decided to go for it here.

fish in a tree - final cover


ARC provided by publisher, Nancy Paulsen Books, a division of Penguin

From the back cover:

“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 troublemaker. 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.

My review:

I love Ally! By the end of the first page, I was in love with her narrative voice. As I was pulled deeper into the story I fell more in love with this spunky protagonist. The teacher in me ached for her and her struggles with reading and writing…by page 13 I was tearing up and wanted to hug her and tell her she was not stupid! It didn’t take long for the little girl in me who struggled with math (and still does) to completely relate to Ally.

Lynda Mullaly Hunt does such a beautiful job capturing the struggle of having learning differences and believing the wrong voices. All her characters have a wonderful balance to them. I can see kids of a span of ages reading the book and relating comfortably to the characters. I believe this should be read by all educators. It will touch you and challenge you to be more mindful of what your students are dealing with. Kids are going to enjoy this too. They’ll see that it’s okay when your brain works different from others. It’s okay to stand up for yourself and for others. That most mean kids have another side to them, but it doesn’t excuse their actions. That you have a choice about how you respond and how you treat others, but sometimes you make the wrong choice. 

This book goes next to books like Cynthia Lord’s Rules as a book that will be impacting lives for years to come. A beautiful example of why we read…to know we are not alone.

Thank you, Lynda Mullaly Hunt for releasing Ally into the world and telling her story. Thank you also, Lynda, and Nancy Paulsen Books for giving me the chance to meet Ally early!



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Reading Ladder: The Magician’s Nephew-The Dream House Kings

One of the middle schoolers I am working with this summer is reading The Magician’s Nephew by CS Lewis for one of his summer reading books. I’m sure I read it when I was young. We had a box set of the Narnia series and I remember my mom reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I have vague recollections of some of the other books, but I don’t really remember the other stories. So I am reading The Magician’s Nephew along with my student and am currently at the part where they have arrived in Narnia as the Lion is singing into existence creation. What a cool depiction of the Genesis 1 Creation account! The Bible says that God spoke everything into being, but I really like the idea of the lion’s song and music creating the world!

The book is also reminding me of Robert Liparulo’s Dream House Kings series. The King family discover doorways in their attic that transport them to different worlds and points in history. In The Magician’s Nephew, Digory and Polly use rings and pools of water to travel. Both books play with the idea of what if someone from another world came into the modern world on Earth. Both books are thrilling, mysterious, and full of adventure and meaning.

Anyone from age 8 or so and up will enjoy The Magician’s Nephew. The Dream House Kings (a 6 book series) is a little darker and a little more violent. I would say its more appropriate for ages 12 and up. The Dream House Kings is good for those who like suspense, mystery, etc, maybe even horror.





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Book List Topic: World War II

Here are some books on World War II that I recommend. This list is by no means exhaustive!

Fiction Titles

The Book Thief

Code Name Verity

Between Shades of Gray

Boy at War

Code Talker

The Devil’s Arithmetic

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Sarah’s Key


NonFiction Titles

Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy


Graphic Novels

Resistance by Jablonski

Maus I, II by Spiegelman

A Bag of Marbles by Joffo




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What’s your plan?

What is your plan for summer reading? Of course many schools require summer reading and those requirements vary quite a bit. I’ve created my own summer reading plan. There is a stack of professional development books that I am hoping to get to and then there are the books that I want to read before putting into to my classroom library. There are the ones that I need to read or re-read in preparation for teaching, and the ones that I just plain have been wanting to read.

In the coming days I’ll try to get those lists up, as well some other suggestions for interesting reading.

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Welcome to my new blog! I am starting this to share books. In the summer, it will be a resource for my students looking for ideas for their summer reading. The rest of the year, I plan to use it for book recommendations and promotion of reading.

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