(Author: Lynda Mullaly Hunt) + (Year: 2015) + (Goodreads)
“I want to give him an answer, but I have both too many words and not enough.”
To be honest, this book was an unexpected gem for me. I liked the cover and I was in for some new books from NetGalley, but I didn’t think it would be awesome, I expected a pleasant enough read at most. Turned out it was quite the amazing book after all.
Fish In A Tree tells the story of a young girl who can’t make the words and letters stay in place and always feels out of her depth in school because of that. Some of her classmates make fun of her and she is convinced that is really, truly stupid. Until a new teacher comes to school and makes her realize that her brain simply works differently and that many of the most brilliant minds ever had dyslexia, just like her.
As a whole, the book was very sweet and touching. It’s probably not going to win an award for most brilliant writing or plot, but that doesn’t mean it’s not great. The story is simple but heartfelt.
At first I was annoyed with Ally because she seemed to be purposely failing, but I soon realized that that was not the case at all. I realized that she was actually struggling very hard to be better, though at the beginning that wasn’t apparent.
With time, Ally turned out to be quite the wonderful character, brave, even though she was failing, stubborn, even though it seemed hopeless. I really liked how she grew up in the course of the book and the big little person she became at the end. Most of all. I liked the final scene with her brother and the teacher, it really moved me.
The recurring characters were not a stroke of originality, of course – a band of outcasts, a posse of mean girls, a couple of kids not brave enough to stand up for the weaker ones until the weaker kids became willful enough to fend for themselves. But they were fun to read about. They also grew. along with Ally. I liked Albert the most. I was sad for him, but I was also proud of the way he carried himself and learned to live with his difficulties. Actually, come to think of it, I think he was my favourite character in the entire book.
Though Mr Daniels was also admirable. He presented a whole new field of ideas in this book. Setting the coming-of-age theme of the book aside, there was also the subject of teaching and education, which I think was equally as important. It really saddens me to see written what I know is true – that education is becoming a formalized activity which focuses not on the knowledge children should receive, but on results, no matter the cost. Most teachers don’t see teaching as a calling, as I think it should be, but as a way to pay the bills if you don’t have any other job opportunities. They don’t care about the learning differences kids have and they in no way find ways to nurture all of their students, on the contrary, the favourites are the ones that can keep up with the insane criteria for a successful student, and the rest are being oppressed, sent to the principle, declared stupid and even mocked by the teachers. I think that’s completely unacceptable. Once upon a time the teacher was a guide, a friend of his or her students, until our world developed to this point where you are good at something if you are making millions, and if you can’t do that, you become a teacher instead, you are bitter and mean and want to take it out on the children that you have promised to protect and teach. It’s a horrible and sad reality the results of which can obviously be seen in the thousands of school dropouts and especially in the millions and billions of children who struggle to memorize information in order to look like they know what they are doing but actually end up knowing nothing at all. It would be so much easier and helpful if teachers cared about what they were doing, that way children would also have a different attitude to learning and would actually do it with desire and would be successful. In that fashion, Mr Daniels reminded me of John Keating from Dead Poets Society, one of my favourite movies. I honestly hope that more teachers would be like that and that one day that profession will turn again into a calling and education will turn into something that people desire, instead of something they are forced into.
If you have ever felt like you didn’t belong, like you couldn’t keep up and the world was moving around you, like you weren’t smart enough or good enough, I think Fish In A Tree is the book for you and it can inspire you to work a little harder and to realize that through hard work you can achieve bigger things.
“It’s like birds can swim and fish can fly.”