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Fish In A Tree: 11/21/15

Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly HuntFish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt is a tween novel about a sixth grader doing everything she can to hide the fact that she can't read. Ally would rather disrupt class than admit that she can't make sense of the words on the page. So far, her teachers have only seen her as an out of control child who belongs in the principal's office, rather than a frustrated and embarrassed child who is an undiagnosed dyslexic.

Fortunately for Ally, her newest teacher, Mr. Daniels, recognizes the techniques she's been using. He slowly but surely tries to win her trust and get her the tutoring she needs to finally start reading with some confidence.

But... this book has problems.

The dyslexia itself is problematic. Ally eventually learns that her brother is also pretty much functionally illiterate. It's hinted that her mother might also have problems. The family has an obvious history of problems reading and yet they never talk about it? I bring this up because dyslexia runs in my family too. My grandmother, my father, and my brother. Whether or not my nephews will have the problem is yet to be seen. But it's not some elephant in the room secret. Those of us who don't have the problem have worked hard to make sure that those who do were given the support and tutoring to learn how to read and how to function with other problems that crop up (like getting directions mixed up).

Then there's the trouble reading. She's completely unable to even recognize letters. With dyslexia you can learn your alphabet. You can read simple sentences. Accuracy takes time. You have to read slowly. When reading faster or when nervous that's when things start to get jumbled. Letters transpose themselves or seem to jiggle. Reading out loud is when the problems are most obvious and most embarrassing.

Regarding it being a man coming to Ally's rescue, I'm going to let that one pass. Dyslexia does affect more males than females. It's entirely possible that he is also dyslexic. It would be nice if that detail had been mentioned, though.

Now the teasing. The new kid isn't the one who is teased. Teasing builds up over time. The same kids are picked on year after year. If Ally really is changing schools every year, she'd be invisible.

Then there's the military brat thing. If Ally's father really was enlisted, chances are they'd be living on base. If they're living off base, there should still be other kids in Ally's situation. Instead, she seems to be living in some out of the way cafe. If Ally were working poor instead of military brat and she were forced to move from town to town. Being working poor would also explain why the mother and brother have so little time to help Ally or even talk to her about her problems in school.

My final thoughts are that it's a good start but it's also a rough one.

Three stars

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