Fish In A Tree

Fish In A Tree
Written by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Publisher’s Summary:
An emotionally-charged, uplifting novel that will speak to anyone who’s ever thought there was something wrong with them because they didn’t fit in. 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.

Primary Source Pairing:
Ally and her brother Travis share a love of old coins inspired by their Grandpa and dad. Their Grandpa would ask the kids if they had a silver dollar day or a wooden nickel day. A silver dollar day was a good day, a wooden nickel day was a day where everything hadn’t gone your way. For the primary source pairing, invite students to analyze the two coins. As an extension activity, Grandpa’s question could be part of a morning meeting or classroom greeting.

Questions for Discussion:

  • What do you notice first?
  • Find something small but interesting.
  • What do you notice that you didn’t expect?
  • What can you learn from examining this?
  • What do you notice that you can’t explain?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Wooden nickel: creator: Sean on Flickr
Silver dollar: Currency and Coin

For more information on the history of Wooden Nickels, visit this Wikipedia page.
For more information on the history of the Silver Dollar, visit this Wikipedia page.

Visit Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s website for activities related to the book:

Makerspace Extension Activity:
For this project, explore the Mystery Object Shoebox experiment Mr. Daniels had the class do in Chapter 14: Boxed In and Boxed Out. Set up the experiment in the same way as it is described in this chapter. Choose different objects, and do this project with your friends and family. Look to Ally for problem-solving inspiration and challenge yourself to use all your senses.


  • Shoebox
  • Rubber bands
  • Objects for inside the box

Project Instructions:
After reading Chapter 14, use the information in the chapter to set up your experiment. Invite others to guess what is in your shoebox. Get together with other students, and do this activity together while talking about the book.

Discussion Questions:

  • How do you rely on your senses to guess what is in the box?
  • What strategies can you use to guess what is in the box?
  • Are there objects that are easier to identify than others
  • What made Ally so good at this experiment
  • How did this experience help Ally believe in herself?