Fish in a Tree


Lynda Mullaly Hunt

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Fish in a Tree: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Ally's day starts out well since they do mental math exercises in the morning and she's good at that. She explains to the reader that she used to love math but now it has letters and story problems, which she can't read and can't solve. Her day goes downhill during snack time when Mr. Daniels calls Ally to his desk and asks her to tell him what her paper filled with "why?" means. Ally refuses to answer and refuses to write a paragraph about herself, reasoning that he doesn't want to know anyway.
Reasoning that Mr. Daniels doesn't care about her is one way for Ally to protect herself in what to her seems like a dog-eat-dog world. She's never had a reason to believe that teachers care about her and are actually interested, therefore, she has no reason to try this time.
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Mr. Daniels asks if Ally doesn't like writing and finds it difficult. She thinks about her answer carefully and decides it's safest to say that writing is easy but boring. She also says that she likes math and drawing. Mr. Daniels says that he's spoken with Mrs. Hall and Mrs. Silver, and knows that Ally spends a lot of time in the office. He says that he's going to try his best to not send her to the office; they can deal with problems together. Ally panics inside; the office was her "get out of jail free" card. Mr. Daniels also assures Ally that he's on her side and wants to help, but Ally thinks he doesn't know what he's getting into.
Mr. Daniels's line of questioning implies that he suspects that there may be more to Ally's refusal than just wanting to cause trouble. Though Ally is too on-guard to realize it, this means that Mr. Daniels is the first person thus far who has looked beyond who she appears to be to see if there's a problem. With this, Mr. Daniels marks himself as a caring educator who wants to see his students as people first.
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