Fish In A Tree Book Review
Click Image for Amazon Link

Fish In A Tree, penned by the talented Lynda Mullaly Hunt, is more than just a children’s book; it’s a heartfelt exploration into the world of those who perceive and process information differently.

At its core, the novel is a testament to the timeless adage: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Just as one shouldn’t judge a person based on their outward appearance, neither should they judge a student’s potential by their ability (or inability) to fit into a conventional learning mold.

Lynda Mullaly Hunt, through her careful and compassionate storytelling, brings to the forefront a tale that many can relate to but few discuss.

In a society where standardized tests and one-size-fits-all educational methodologies often dominate, Fish In A Tree serves as a beacon of hope, a call for understanding, and most importantly, a celebration of differences.


Ally Nickerson is a bright and imaginative young girl, but she carries a secret.

For years, she’s been adroitly dodging the label of “dumb” by creating smart diversions whenever she’s faced with the challenge of reading or writing.

School, for Ally, isn’t a sanctuary of learning but a minefield of embarrassment.

She’s adept at hiding her inability to read but is less successful in hiding the emotional pain it causes.

The story unfolds as Ally, feeling isolated and misunderstood, navigates the choppy waters of school life.

Enter Mr. Daniels, a teacher with a knack for looking beyond the surface.

Unlike others who’ve dismissed Ally’s struggles as a mere lack of effort or discipline, Mr. Daniels identifies her challenges as symptoms of dyslexia.

This revelation, while initially overwhelming, becomes Ally’s turning point. She learns that there’s a name for her struggles, and with the right support, she can conquer them.

However, the book isn’t solely about dyslexia; it’s also a journey of friendship, understanding, and self-acceptance.

As Ally makes new friends and learns more about her own capabilities, readers are invited to join her in understanding that everyone has their own unique strengths, and sometimes, it’s okay to be a fish in a tree.

Main Characters Analysis

Ally Nickerson: In the vast landscape of literary characters, Ally Nickerson stands out as a beacon of hope and resilience.

As the protagonist of Fish In A Tree, she is a kaleidoscope of emotions, ranging from despair and self-doubt to eventual self-realization and strength.

Throughout the story, readers witness her grappling with the weight of being labeled and misunderstood.

She is artful in masking her reading difficulties, often using humor or distractions.

But beneath this shield, there’s a vulnerable child yearning for acceptance and understanding.

Ally’s character resonates deeply because she embodies the fear of being “different” and the courage it takes to embrace one’s true self amidst adversity.

As her journey unfolds, she becomes the embodiment of the book’s core message: our differences, rather than being our weaknesses, can be our strengths.

Mr. Daniels: If Ally is the heart of the story, Mr. Daniels is its soul.

Representing the ideal educator, Mr. Daniels sees potential where others see problems.

Unlike previous teachers who dismissed Ally as lazy or disruptive, he identifies the root of her struggles.

His character emphasizes the importance of understanding, patience, and compassion in the field of education.

Through Mr. Daniels, the book highlights the profound impact a single educator can have on a student’s life.

He not only identifies Ally’s dyslexia but also introduces her to the world of knowledge in a way she can understand, cherish, and excel in.

Keisha and Albert: These two characters play pivotal roles as the supporting beams in Ally’s life.

In a world where Ally feels out of place, Keisha and Albert offer friendship, acceptance, and a sense of belonging.

Keisha, with her fiery spirit, defends Ally and stands up against bullies, while Albert, with his quirky personality and unique worldview, provides a refreshing perspective on life.

Both characters remind readers of the power of true friendship and the joy of finding one’s tribe.

Themes and Symbolism

Dyslexia: At the forefront of Fish In A Tree is the theme of dyslexia.

But rather than merely presenting it as a challenge, the book frames it as a unique lens through which the world can be seen.

Through Ally’s experiences, readers gain an insight into the emotional and academic struggles faced by those with dyslexia.

More importantly, the book serves as a powerful reminder that every individual’s mind is wired differently, and this diversity is something to be celebrated, not shunned.

Acceptance and Friendship: Beyond the academic struggles, Fish In A Tree is a poignant tale of acceptance.

Whether it’s Ally’s acceptance of her own self or the acceptance she finds in her friends, this theme is interwoven seamlessly into the narrative.

The friendships in the story, especially between Ally, Keisha, and Albert, are a testament to the idea that true acceptance comes when we see beyond superficial labels.

The title “Fish In A Tree”: The book’s title, drawn from the famous Einstein quote, serves as a powerful symbol throughout the story.

It emphasizes the idea that judging someone’s abilities based on a singular standard or expectation is inherently flawed.

A fish is not meant to climb a tree, just as every child doesn’t fit into a one-size-fits-all education mold.

Through this symbolism, the book champions the idea that everyone has their own unique strengths and talents.

Author’s Writing Style

Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s prose in Fish In A Tree is akin to a comforting embrace, one that assures readers of the beauty in uniqueness and the power of perseverance.

Hunt has the uncanny ability to delve deep into the psyche of a middle-schooler, capturing the raw, unfiltered emotions of a child navigating the complexities of self-identity amidst academic struggles.

The book is written in the first-person narrative, a decision that undoubtedly draws readers closer to Ally’s heart and mind.

Through Ally’s eyes and voice, readers feel every ounce of her frustration, fear, hope, and eventual triumph.

Hunt doesn’t merely tell a story; she lets readers live it. Every hesitation of Ally, her internal monologues, and her apprehensions are laid bare, making her journey deeply personal to anyone holding the book.

Furthermore, Hunt’s language is accessible yet profound.

She doesn’t rely on convoluted vocabulary or intricate plot twists. Instead, she harnesses the power of simplicity, crafting a narrative that’s both relatable to young readers and thought-provoking for adults.

The dialogues are genuine, the scenarios believable, and the emotions, universal.

It’s this universal appeal that makes Fish In A Tree not just a story about dyslexia, but a story about humanity, understanding, and growth.

Personal Reflection

Fish In A Tree is one of those rare gems that leaves an indelible mark long after the final page is turned.

As I navigated the pages, I was transported back to my school days, a time fraught with the quest for acceptance, the weight of labels, and the joy of little victories.

While I may not have faced the same challenges as Ally, her emotions of feeling out of place, of wanting to fit in, and of yearning to be understood are universal.

The character of Mr. Daniels reminded me of educators who, in their own subtle ways, illuminated paths for many lost students.

His unwavering belief in Ally’s potential is a testament to the profound impact a teacher can have in shaping a student’s future.

While Fish In A Tree addresses dyslexia, its themes are applicable to anyone who has ever felt ‘different’.

It serves as a poignant reminder that oftentimes, our perceived weaknesses hide our most significant strengths.

The book resonated deeply, urging me to reflect on my own biases, judgments, and the way I perceive the world around me.

In a world that often rushes to label and categorize, Fish In A Tree is a clarion call to pause, understand, and appreciate the myriad colors that paint the human experience.

Comparison to Other Works

Within the literary world, several works explore the challenges faced by children with learning differences, but few capture the heart and soul of the experience as profoundly as Fish In A Tree.

Ponder upon “Out of My Mind” by Sharon M. Draper. Both novels dive deep into the world of children who don’t fit the conventional mold.

While Draper’s story hinges on physical disability and communication struggles, Hunt’s tale sheds light on dyslexia.

Yet, at their core, both narratives underscore the universal longing for acceptance and understanding. They challenge the stereotypes that often surround children with differences and showcase the unyielding spirit and potential that lie within.

Another worthy comparison could be made with “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio.

While Palacio’s Auggie battles external judgments due to his facial difference, Ally struggles with an internal challenge that’s invisible to the world yet just as daunting.

Both books beautifully navigate the maze of middle school, a period rife with the quest for identity and acceptance.

However, what sets Fish In A Tree apart is its relentless optimism and its commitment to emphasizing strengths over weaknesses.

While many novels in this genre focus heavily on the challenges and adversities, Hunt’s narrative is a celebration of individuality, of the unsung heroes in the form of understanding educators, and of the strength that comes from accepting one’s unique self.


Fish In A Tree isn’t merely a book; it’s an experience, a lesson, and above all, a mirror into the souls of countless children who march to the beat of their own drum.

For Educators: This book is a must-read.

It offers a deep dive into the world of children like Ally, reminding educators of the profound impact their words and actions can have.

It’s a call to embrace diverse learning styles, look beyond the surface, and recognize the potential that often lies hidden beneath layers of self-doubt or misbehavior.

For Parents: If you have children, especially ones navigating the challenges of school and social acceptance, this book offers both a comforting embrace and a window into the world of kids who feel ‘different’.

It emphasizes the importance of patience, understanding, and advocacy.

For Students: Whether in middle school, high school, or beyond, Fish In A Tree speaks to the soul of anyone who’s ever felt out of place.

It’s a reminder that your unique strengths define you, not your perceived weaknesses.

For General Readers: Even if you’ve never set foot in a classroom in years, the book’s themes are universal.

It touches on friendship, acceptance, self-discovery, and the timeless struggle of finding one’s place in the world.

Age Group Recommendation: While the book is tailored for middle-grade readers, its lessons are timeless and relevant across ages. It’s a poignant read for anyone aged 10 and up.

Social and Educational Implications

Fish In A Tree isn’t just a piece of fiction; it resonates deeply with real-life implications, especially in the domains of education and societal perceptions.

Educationally: The book serves as a stark reminder that our current one-size-fits-all approach to education is inherently flawed.

Every child has a unique learning style, and while some may thrive in traditional settings, others, like Ally, may falter not because of a lack of intelligence, but simply because their minds are wired differently.

Ally’s story sheds light on the countless children who, every day, face the brunt of a system that’s ill-equipped to cater to their needs.

It underscores the need for more inclusive teaching methodologies, the importance of early detection of learning differences, and the pivotal role educators play in shaping a child’s self-worth.

Socially: Through Ally’s journey, the book delves into the world of labels.

From being termed “slow” to “difficult”, Ally’s experiences mirror the societal tendency to hastily box individuals based on superficial assessments.

The story serves as a clarion call to move beyond these labels, to foster a culture of understanding and acceptance.

It’s also a poignant reminder of the emotional turmoil children undergo when they’re constantly reminded that they don’t “fit in”.

In a broader sense, Fish In A Tree speaks to anyone who has ever felt marginalized or misunderstood, urging society to embrace differences rather than shun them.

Moreover, the book’s portrayal of friendship, especially the bond between Ally, Keisha, and Albert sheds light on the importance of finding one’s tribe.

It’s a testament to the idea that while society may often be quick to judge, there’s always a niche, a group, a tribe where one can truly belong.

Closing Thoughts

Having journeyed through Ally’s world, it’s hard to emerge unchanged.

Fish In A Tree, in its essence, is a masterclass in empathy, understanding, and hope.

Reflection: The narrative compels readers to reflect on their own biases, their own preconceived notions, and the countless times they might have inadvertently labeled someone or been labeled.

It pushes one to question: How many Allys are out there, waiting to be seen?

How many are on the brink of giving up, simply because they’ve never been shown that there’s another way, a different path tailored just for them?

Predictions: Given the rising awareness about learning differences and the increasing emphasis on inclusive education, one can hope that Fish In A Tree serves as a catalyst for change.

It’s conceivable that this book will find its way into school curriculums, serving as a tool to foster understanding and acceptance among peers.

Moreover, it’s likely that the book will spearhead discussions, seminars, and workshops centered around the holistic well-being of students, urging educators to look beyond grades and delve deep into the emotional and psychological realms of their wards.

One can also foresee an increased emphasis on training teachers, not just in subject matter, but in understanding diverse learning styles, detecting potential learning differences early on, and being equipped to provide the necessary support.

Our Rating for “Fish In A Tree”

Breaking down the rating for Fish In A Tree, it’s essential to consider various components of the novel, from its narrative flow to its societal impact.

Narrative and Plot Development: 5/5

The story of Ally Nickerson is not just heart-touching; it’s transformative.

Hunt crafts an impeccable narrative, one that seamlessly merges Ally’s internal struggles with the external world’s challenges.

There’s a rhythmic ebb and flow to the story, with moments of heartache balanced beautifully by instances of sheer joy and realization.

The plot doesn’t stagnate; it evolves, offering readers both surprises and profound moments of reflection.

Character Development: 4.7/5

Ally stands out as a meticulously crafted character, one with depth, complexity, and relatability.

As readers, we don’t just observe her journey; we live it alongside her.

Characters like Mr. Daniels and Ally’s friends, Keisha and Albert, add rich layers to the story.

Each character plays a pivotal role, either as a catalyst for Ally’s growth or as a mirror to society’s biases.

However, a slight drawback is that a few secondary characters could have been fleshed out further, providing a more comprehensive view of Ally’s world.

Writing Style: 4.9/5

Hunt’s writing is a masterclass in simplicity and depth.

With straightforward prose, she delves deep into complex emotions, making the narrative accessible to younger readers while ensuring it resonates with adults.

The first-person narrative choice was brilliant, immersing readers wholly into Ally’s world.

Social and Educational Impact: 5/5

Rarely does a novel achieve what Fish In A Tree has managed to do.

Beyond being a source of entertainment, it serves as an educational tool, an eye-opener, and a call for societal change.

The book has the potential to revolutionize the way educators perceive learning differences and the way society views the “different” among us.

Engagement and Pacing: 4.6/5

The book manages to hold the reader’s attention from start to finish.

There’s a natural progression, with each chapter building on the last.

However, there are moments, albeit few, where the pacing slows a tad, allowing readers a breather, but also momentarily pulling away from the central narrative.

Overall Rating: 4.8/5

Fish In A Tree is more than deserving of its high rating.

It’s a harmonious blend of heartwarming storytelling, profound life lessons, and characters that stay with you long after the last page.

While no work is without its minor flaws, the book’s strengths overwhelmingly overshadow any drawbacks.

It’s a must-read, not just as a story but as a life lesson, urging readers to always look beyond the surface and recognize the uncharted potential that lies within.