Fish in a Tree


Lynda Mullaly Hunt

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Fish in a Tree: Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Travis and Ally enter a pawnshop. It smells like old memories of Dad and Grandpa taking Travis and Ally out looking for coins. The salesman doesn't say hello and doesn't take Travis seriously when he says he wants to buy coins. Travis does what Dad said to never do and shows the man a wad of bills. The man's eyes widen and Travis asks for liberty coins. The man pulls out several. Ally recognizes one of the dimes, but Travis asks to see more unusual coins.
Even if Travis is fighting the same battles that Ally is, he shows here that he knows how flip some of the social scripts and use them to his advantage. In this way, he becomes an example for Ally to show her that behaving differently isn't necessarily a bad thing; it can bring about some interesting results.
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The salesman pulls out a very small penny. Travis inspects it and asks for a price. The man reminds Travis that a coin with a flaw is more valuable than a regular coin, an idea that shocks Ally. He then says he'll sell the penny for $75. Travis smiles, which Ally tells the reader is a bad move, but Travis points out that the "special penny" is just a regular one dipped in nitric acid. The man stops smiling and at Travis's request, pulls out a 1933 Walking Liberty half-dollar. Travis negotiates to buy the half-dollar along with the dime that Ally recognized.
The idea that flawed coins are more valuable than regular coins introduces Ally to the idea that difference can be good, powerful, and something to be proud of. By linking this idea to Dad and Grandpa, two figures who aren't around right now, it suggests that Ally may have mentors and cheerleaders in the abstract. However, those cheerleaders can't help her when they're not around to advocate for her. This scene also shows Travis’s innate intelligence, even if he struggles in school as Ally does.
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Ally is elated as she accepts the dime outside the shop. Travis explains that both coins were minted in 1933, the year of Grandpa's birth. As they get in the car, Travis says that the salesman tried to rip him off, but Travis was able to use the man's low expectations to his advantage. He points to Ally and says that the trick is to not have low expectations of oneself. Ally nods but thinks it's not hard to think ill of herself.
Again, Travis's pep talk shows that he's figured out how to, in some situations, use his "flaws" to his advantage, something that Ally hasn't learned yet. With this, Travis becomes another cheerleader for Ally, albeit one who also struggles with reading and therefore, can't advocate for the help she needs yet.
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