"And I think of words. The power they have. How they can be waved around like a wand - sometimes for good...and how words can also be used for bad." -----Ally Nickerson, Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
While at NCTE I had the opportunity to listen to Lynda Mullaly Hunt share her story. As a teacher of reading, I know her story isn't an uncommon story. Reading doesn't come easy to everyone. Still, there's something about hearing it told. There's something about feeling the sting of the words. There's something about watching someone's eyes as she talks about all the people who didn't believe. There's something about hearing the story of the moment that changed everything. Lynda shared a story of the teacher who made all the difference because he believed in her. I listened to her story and was reminded of the important work we do as teachers. I was reminded how necessary it is that we always believe in the possible.
I raced to the exhibition hall after listening to her speak. I knew I needed to find an arc of her upcoming book, Fish in a Tree. With a little finesse I was able talk someone out of one of the last copies of the book.
It's been busy since then. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Travel. School. Finally, I was able to sit down with the book and it did not disappoint.
As in One for the Murphys, it didn't take me long to fall in love with the characters in this story. Ally feels like an outsider. With kids like Shay and Jessica constantly laughing at her, her classroom isn't a comfortable place to be. It doesn't help that everything she tries to do is so hard for her, yet looks like she hasn't even tried. What she doesn't know is that she isn't the only kid that feels like this. What she doesn't know is not everyone is interested in using words to tear people down. She soon builds a friendship with Keisha and Albert. This friendship will help give her the strength to stand up and reach for all that is possible.
Fish in a Tree is an important reminder to teachers everywhere about the message we send to children with our words every day. The book speaks to the power of the possible. We aren't all the same and we don't all learn in the same way. This book also sends a strong message to all of those who have had to work hard to learn to read. Not only will it give those working hard to learn to make sense of words strength, but it will also help others see inside this tough challenge.
The good news is, it looks like the book will be available February 5th. Mark your calendars. You won't want to miss it.