The story’s protagonist, Ally is a sixth-grade student who, unbeknownst to herself for much of the novel, has dyslexia. Though Ally is extremely smart, good at math, and a talented artist, she can barely read… read analysis of Ally
Mr. Daniels is a young teacher who takes over for Mrs. Hall sometime around Thanksgiving and is the first to recognize that Ally has dyslexia. A kind and thoughtful man studying to become a special… read analysis of Mr. Daniels
Keisha is a new girl at school with whom Ally becomes very close. She's the only black girl and is extremely confident in herself and her abilities. This causes her to challenge Shay regularly and… read analysis of Keisha
Albert is one of Ally's best friends. A hulking boy who loves science and logic, he comes to school every day wearing a shirt that reads "Flint" and a pair of jeans. He's also often… read analysis of Albert
Travis is Ally's big brother. He's in high school, though Ally never shares what grade. School has never been Travis's thing; the novel implies that, like Ally, Travis is dyslexic. He talks about words moving… read analysis of Travis
Ally's mom works at a restaurant called A. C. Petersen's as a waitress, which means that Ally often either does homework at the restaurant or is home unsupervised, given that Mom works late. Though Mom… read analysis of Mom
Jessica is Shay's best friend and, as Ally sees it, her shadow. She describes Jessica as having few personality traits or interests of her own, as her main goal seems to be following Shay and… read analysis of Jessica
Oliver is one of Ally's classmates. He's always talking and moving, which makes him a common target of bullying. In the week after Mr. Daniels arrives to teach, Ally notices that Oliver likely has self-esteem… read analysis of Oliver
Ally's dad; he's the captain of a tank unit in the Army, though Ally never says where he's fighting. At the start of the novel, he's been deployed for about a year. Both Dad and… read analysis of Dad
The principal at Ally's school. At the start of the novel, Mrs. Silver is exasperated with how often she sees Ally in her office. She tells Ally that the sympathy card is too far out… read analysis of Mrs. Silver
Ally's maternal grandfather; he's been dead for about a year at the start of the novel. He loved collecting coins and also loved Alice in Wonderland. Ally has his old copy of the book… read analysis of Grandpa
One of Ally's classmates; she's a Japanese immigrant and is still learning English. When she's nervous she rolls a carved wooden block around in her hands, and she's often anxious when Shay bullies others. Suki… read analysis of Suki
A popular and sporty boy in Ally's class. He loves parties and wants to throw one at school at every opportunity. Though he hangs out with Shay, Jessica, and the other popular girls… read analysis of Max
Mrs. Hall is Ally's teacher at the beginning of the novel. She's pregnant and soon to go on maternity leave. Ally doesn't dislike Mrs. Hall; in fact, she's thrilled to be able to give Mrs… read analysis of Mrs. Hall
Though Albert's dad never appears in the novel in person, Albert talks about him on several occasions. He's an inventor, though it's not clear what he's trying to invent. He named Albert after Albert Einstein… read analysis of Albert's Dad
Three boys who are much smaller than Albert but who beat him up daily after school regardless. They tease Albert for being poor and for not wanting to fight back, and they have no qualms… read analysis of The Bullies
A very wealthy woman, Shay's mom berates her daughter when Shay loses the election for class president. Her rant implies that she believed that the outlandish promises Shay made during her speech—which she helped write—would… read analysis of Shay's Mom
The overbearing and exacting music teacher at Ally's school. She's prone to blowing up over the slightest "infractions," which leads Max to call her Minefield Muldoon. She takes away Ally and Keisha's flowers at the holiday concert because the girls weren't appropriately respectful of their bouquets.
Albert's mom. She's perplexed when Albert brings home friends for the first time and though she offers Ally and Keisha food, Albert later admits that she actually had no food to give them.
A woman who substitutes for Mr. Daniels's class. She humiliates Ally by reading Mr. Daniels's note that Ally can draw instead of write out loud and then doesn't stop Shay when she bullies Ally for it.
A salesman at a pawnshop. He initially tries to take advantage of Travis by showing him a penny that had been chemically altered, but eventually makes a deal with him to sell him valuable coins.
The Third Grade Teacher
The only teacher who ever said outright that she thought Ally was slow.
The reading specialist at Ally's school.