FISH IN A TREE
Review by Harshita Gupta
Rating : 4.5/5
Winner of The Schneider Family Award
Age : 12 and Above
The title of the story, Fish in a Tree, reflects Albert Einstein’s quotation: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Ally Nickerson has a problem.Something which she has been good at hiding.The letters seem to wiggle and she can’t read them. Whether they are in the textbook, chalk board or poster, they dance and flutter and give her head aches. In Ally’s mind, days are divided into silver dollar days,which are the good ones and wooden nickel days, the bad ones. Most of them turn out to be wooden nickel days.
The author has done a fantastic job of letting us view the world from the eyes of a dyslexic child. It gives the reader more than a glimpse into Ally’s world and the extent of trouble she faces. In fact Ally is unaware of her condition and deems herself to be unworthy of any encouragement. Things do change for her when Mr.Daniel, a new teacher arrives at her school and discovers her secret.
By doing some creative think tank, class activities, Mr. Daniel is able to boost her confidence. Slowly he draws her out of her shell and helps her realise that she isn’t dumb, just different. Once she comprehends that, there is no holding her back, for now, even the word IMPOSSIBLE reads I – M – POSSIBLE.
Ally is befriended by two of her classmates, Albert and Keisha.These three misfits become pals and in the process realise that “great minds don’t think alike”.
The three of them overcome their fears and face the issue of bullying together. There is the psychological bullying by the popular girl (Shay) in class who uses words as darts on Ally. The physical bullying of Albert by a group of boys happens outside the school premises to which Albert finally finds the courage to stand up against.
In an excerpt Ally expresses beautifully the power of words.”And I think of words.The power they have. How they can be waved around like a wand – sometimes for good, like how Mr. Daniel uses them and how words can be used for bad.To hurt.”
Words play an important role and at times one feels as if they are the real protagonist of the story. In the chapter Words that Breathe,the author has explained the difference between the words “Lonely” and “Alone” in such a heart wrenching manner.
“Well…alone is a way to be. It’s being by yourself with no one else around. And it can be good or bad. And it can be a choice…. But being lonely is never a choice. It’s not about who is with you or not. You can feel lonely when you are alone, but the worst kind of lonely is when you’re in a room full of people, but you’re still alone. Or you feel like you are anyway.” -Ally
This heartwarming tale of “learning differences” gets an instant thumbs up. The themes of positivity, hope, reaching out and friendship is what makes the read both hilarious and uplifting!
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