Fish in a Tree


Lynda Mullaly Hunt

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Fish in a Tree: Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Mr. Daniels announces that he's going to talk about books. Ally enjoys it when he does this; she just doesn't want to read them. Then, he holds up a stack of notebooks and explains that there's one for each student to write in every day. Ally knows she'll hate this, but then Mr. Daniels says he'll never correct them and the students can write about what they want. Ally is perplexed and knows there must be a catch. She's right; there are rules: they have to write something, and Mr. Daniels says he'll write back.
Again, Ally's distrustful nature when it comes to teachers is a result of years of having no reason to trust her teachers. This illustrates the amount of damage that a teacher can inflict on a child by not meeting them where they are, as it then puts a student further behind as they continue through school.
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Max and Oliver ask clarifying questions and Ally receives a yellow notebook. They all begin to write. Ally notices Suki holding one of her blocks and wonders if she's thinking about her grandfather. Ally sees a mind movie of being in a forest of alphabet blocks. She considers drawing that but colors a black cube to see if Mr. Daniels really means that they can do anything in the notebooks.
The forest of alphabet blocks is easily read as an image of how Ally feels: lost in a dangerous forest that she can't understand. She seems to understand that drawing that might tip Mr. Daniels off to her anxiety about reading, making the black cube a safer choice for her.
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The next day, Mr. Daniels approaches Ally with her drawing of the black cube and apologetically asks if she'd tell him what it means. Ally thinks she doesn't really want to get in trouble so with prompting, she says it's a drawing of a dark room where nobody can see her. She says that it'd be easier to be invisible but won't say why. Mr. Daniels nods slowly, thanks her for her honesty, and says he's glad she's not invisible. Ally is happy he said this, though she doesn't believe him. She realizes she's spent her life not looking at teachers' faces and decides that she has one new wish: to impress Mr. Daniels.
Even if Ally didn't want to let on about her reading issues, what she says about the cube tells Mr. Daniels even more about her self-esteem and her fragile emotional health. The fact that Mr. Daniels is able to make Ally want to impress him just by showing interest in her and telling her she's important suggests that it's not hard for a teacher to gain a student's trust, provided they show genuine interest and positive regard for the students.
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