Fish in a Tree

Fish in a Tree Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In the middle of a brainstorming session for a community service project, Shay raises her hand and announces that she's inviting everyone to her birthday party so no one is left out. Keisha asks how this connects to the community service project, and Mr. Daniels compliments Shay and then quickly moves on. Later, Shay loudly whispers to Jessica that she's mad that Shay's mom is making her invite everyone, and she hopes some people don't show up.
Here, inviting everyone but making it clear that Shay doesn't want to do so is a way for Shay to basically have her cake and eat it too: she gets the praise from Mr. Daniels for being inclusive, while also effectively disinviting everyone she didn't want to invite in the first place.
Themes
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
Mom makes Ally agree to go to Shay's party, even though Shay is mean and neither Albert nor Keisha are going. At lunch the next day, Ally asks Albert and Keisha for a disease to use as an excuse to not go. Albert suggests the black plague and lists the symptoms. Keisha points out that Ally could just have a cold like a normal person.
By forcing Ally to go to the party, Mom does ruin Shay's plan and forces Shay to see that she can't have everything she wants, though it does put Ally at risk of bullying—especially since Ally's friends won't be there to protect her.
Themes
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
Ally arrives at the Butterfly Gardens for Shay's party. She notices girls from other classrooms as well as Jessica, all of whom are wearing friendship bracelets. Ally wonders if Keisha would like one. An employee lines up the kids and talks about the butterflies, making it clear that they're not to grab them. The butterflies flock to Ally's orange shirt, and she wonders if she's part butterfly.
Ally sees the butterflies as symbols of what she could possibly be if she weren't held back by her dyslexia. When Ally wonders if Keisha would like a bracelet, it shows that Ally is beginning to think critically about things and realize that she can make things fit her own needs.
Themes
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
Ally remembers Albert saying once that Native Americans believe that if a person caught a butterfly and whispered their deepest wish to it, the butterfly would carry the wish to the spirits. Ally remembers the employee saying to not grab the butterflies, but her hand acts of its own accord and closes loosely around a black and orange one. She opens her hand and the butterfly flies to the ground. The employee is upset, and Shay says that Ally likely killed it by touching its wings. Ally tries to explain about the wish givers, but Shay calls Ally a freak show. Shay's mom explains that Ally is part of the party, but not her daughter, and Ally wishes Mom were here.
Everything that happens here offers more evidence for how bullying like Shay carries out is allowed to happen: Shay's mom effectively flouts responsibility for Ally while also not reprimanding Shay, while the employees fail to consider that Ally may have impulse control problems and instead, believe that she's just being a troublemaker. However, remembering Albert's story shows again how Ally could be a great reader if she could learn to read, as she connects the stories to her life.
Themes
Dyslexia, Intelligence, and Learning Theme Icon
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
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The employee carefully picks up the hurt butterfly as Ally watches a mind movie of butterflies falling like rain. Suki comforts Ally by saying she knows Ally didn't hurt the butterfly on purpose, but Ally thinks that she'd do almost anything for her wish to come true.
Suki's kind words begin to show Ally that she has more friends than she might think, which indicates that the social hierarchy is continuing to change—and that the students are becoming more empowered to stand up to Shay.
Themes
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon