Fish in a Tree

Mr. Daniels Character Analysis

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 education teacher, he calls his students "Fantasticos," celebrates their differences, and takes a firm stand against bullying. Ally also notices early on that Mr. Daniels has a signal with Oliver, a boy who struggles with impulse control, to quietly tell him to settle down. Mr. Daniels is an encouraging presence in Ally’s life, often engaging her in lessons that show her that she can do well—such as his "mystery box" exercise and mental math lessons. As Ally begins to trust Mr. Daniels and try more often to turn in her writing homework, Mr. Daniels starts to suspect that Ally isn't just missing homework because she doesn't want to do it. He asks her questions about how long it takes her to write, if it hurts her head to read and write, and if letters move on the page. With all of this, he thanks her for her honesty and tells her that she just thinks differently. Finally, Mr. Daniels asks Ally to get tested for dyslexia. When Ally's results show that she is dyslexic, they begin working together after school. He also starts to teach her to play chess, as he recognizes that chess is easier for a visual learner and will give Ally something to be successful at. One of his final lessons seeks to show Ally that she's not alone by presenting a number of famous and influential people who also had dyslexia to his class. Near the end of the school year, he also agrees to tutor Ally's brother, Travis, whom Ally believes also has dyslexia.

Mr. Daniels Quotes in Fish in a Tree

The Fish in a Tree quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Daniels or refer to Mr. Daniels. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Dyslexia, Intelligence, and Learning Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Fish in a Tree published in 2015.
Chapter 9 Quotes

Mr. Daniels gives Oliver a thumbs-up, and I think how cool it is that they have the ear-pulling signal. That way he doesn't always have to tell Oliver that he's doing something wrong in front of everyone. I know what that feels like and I'm happy that Mr. Daniels cares so much. Most teachers seem to like their students to be all the same—perfect and quiet. Mr. Daniels actually seems to like that we're different.

Related Characters: Ally (speaker), Mr. Daniels, Oliver
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 10 Quotes

But now, on top of all those other big wishes that I carry around, I have one more. I want to impress Mr. Daniels. With every tiny little piece of myself, I just want him to like me.

Related Characters: Ally (speaker), Mr. Daniels
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 15 Quotes

The next morning, I am trying to decide if I should turn in my paper, knowing Mr. Daniels will probably think I spit it out in two minutes. The truth is that it cost me my whole night and a headache that was so bad, it reminded me of the Queen in Alice in Wonderland always yelling, “Off with her head!” Just because I thought that would be a relief.

Related Characters: Ally (speaker), Mr. Daniels
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 23 Quotes

Even when I do something right, I feel like I've done something wrong. If I were a coin, I'd be a wooden nickel.

Related Characters: Ally (speaker), Mr. Daniels, Shay
Related Symbols: Coins
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 24 Quotes

“Do you know what it means to think out of the box?” he asks.

I shake my head.

“It means that you are a creative thinker. You think differently than other people.”

Great. Just once, I want to be told I'm like everyone else.

“It's a good thing to be an out-of-the-box thinker. People like that are world-changers.”

Related Characters: Ally (speaker), Mr. Daniels (speaker)
Page Number: 129
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 26 Quotes

“You are smart, Ally. And you are going to learn to read.”

A chill runs through my whole body. I don't have any choice but to believe him, because I can't go another day thinking things will be like this forever.

Related Characters: Mr. Daniels (speaker), Ally
Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 33 Quotes

I walk over to the garbage and drop it in. Watch it twist and spin as it falls. I look up and lock eyes with him and wish I had the words to tell him how grateful I am for his helping me. In this world of words, sometimes they just can't say everything.

Related Characters: Ally (speaker), Mr. Daniels
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 34 Quotes

And I think of words. The power they have. How they can be waved around like a wand—sometimes for good, like how Mr. Daniels uses them. How he makes kids like me and Oliver feel better about ourselves. And how words can also be used for bad. To hurt.

Related Characters: Ally (speaker), Mr. Daniels, Keisha, Albert, Oliver
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 37 Quotes

I guess maybe “I'm having trouble” is not the same as “I can't.”

Related Characters: Ally (speaker), Mr. Daniels
Page Number: 197
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 42 Quotes

Normally, I'd be giving him all kinds of reasons I can't do this. But the thing is, Mr. Daniels could hand me a book as heavy as a boulder and I'd try to read it.

Just because he asked me to.

Related Characters: Ally (speaker), Mr. Daniels
Page Number: 218
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 48 Quotes

And looking around the room, I remember thinking that my reading differences were like dragging a concrete block around every day, and how I felt sorry for myself. Now I realize that everyone has their own blocks to drag around. And they all feel heavy.

Related Characters: Ally (speaker), Mr. Daniels, Shay, Oliver
Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis:
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Mr. Daniels Character Timeline in Fish in a Tree

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Daniels appears in Fish in a Tree. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3: Never up to Me
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
The bell rings. Mrs. Silver says that Ally has crossed a line and when Mr. Daniels arrives on Monday, Ally needs to avoid negative consequences. Ally thinks this is impossible. As... (full context)
Chapter 7: No Grandpas Here
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...the thought of having to go back to school and hopes that her new teacher, Mr. Daniels , will be a friendly grandfatherly type. (full context)
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Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
Mr. Daniels turns out to be young, with a dark jacket and a tie with planets on... (full context)
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...thinks that if trying to read actually helped, she'd be a genius. Suddenly, she notices Mr. Daniels in front of her with his hand held out. He introduces himself to her, causing... (full context)
Chapter 8: Real Trouble
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...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... (full context)
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Mr. Daniels asks if Ally doesn't like writing and finds it difficult. She thinks about her answer... (full context)
Chapter 9: Bag Full of Nothing
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...a lamp salesman and when he grows up, he wants to sell hangers—everyone needs hangers. Mr. Daniels tells Oliver he's clever, which Ally thinks Oliver probably hasn't heard before. Oliver falls into... (full context)
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...meanly with Jessica, and Ally explains that Shay has gotten sneakier about being mean since Mr. Daniels took away her recess for making fun of Oliver. Albert explains that he drank water—the... (full context)
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...homemade cupcake. Shay whispers that the cupcake isn't decorated, and cupcakes aren't that cool, but Mr. Daniels tells her to be constructive. Smiling, Keisha cuts her cupcake in half to reveal the... (full context)
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Keisha says she's going to call her baking business "Hidden Messages," and Mr. Daniels says the possibilities are infinite. At this, Albert raises his hand and explains why the... (full context)
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...bring something and says she can't even talk about a pet, since Mom is allergic. Mr. Daniels encourages her to share anything. Finally, Ally pulls a 1943 steel penny out of her... (full context)
Chapter 10: Promises, Promises...
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Mr. Daniels announces that he's going to talk about books. Ally enjoys it when he does this;... (full context)
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...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. (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 11: Scrambled Egg
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A few days later, Ally gets to school and discovers that Mr. Daniels has redone the seating chart. Ally is in the front row next to Keisha now.... (full context)
Chapter 14: Boxed In and Boxed Out
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On Friday afternoon, Mr. Daniels announces a challenge. The class will split into three groups and each will receive a... (full context)
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...just as well as her classmates. The third box seems like an oversized marker, and Mr. Daniels stays to observe Ally's group with the fourth box. Jessica compliments Max as he turns... (full context)
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Mr. Daniels tries to get Ally's wandering attention and she explains that she sometimes forgets to talk.... (full context)
Chapter 15: Ungreased Gears
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...table, trying to complete her homework: a paper describing her feelings on a short story Mr. Daniels read. Ally knows it shouldn't be hard, but she thinks it'll take her forever to... (full context)
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...it took her all night and gave her a horrible headache, but she's afraid that Mr. Daniels will think she did it in only a few minutes. He's in the hallway with... (full context)
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...to thank Ally for what she did with the flowers. Inside, the cupcake says "wow." Mr. Daniels calls the class to attention and then Keisha quietly tells Ally that she has guts.... (full context)
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Ally has the best lunch and recess she's had in a long time. Mr. Daniels calls Ally to his desk afterwards, her notebook and homework in his hands and a... (full context)
Chapter 16: What I've Got
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...few days later, Ally shows up to school with her writing arm in a sling. Mr. Daniels is going to ask them to write stories and with a sling, she can't write.... (full context)
Chapter 18: Truths and Untruths
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Keisha flounces to her seat, annoyed because Mr. Daniels asked her to do a paper again since she can do better. Ally realizes she's... (full context)
Chapter 19: Not-So-Sweet Secret
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...their ice cream order. Albert wants to know if it's free and then suggests that Mr. Daniels isn't a trusting person. He says that Mr. Daniels wanted to know about his bruises... (full context)
Chapter 20: Is This a Good Thing?
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The next day at school, Shay waits until Mr. Daniels walks into the hallway before whispering loudly to Jessica that yesterday, she saw Ally and... (full context)
Chapter 21: Butterfly Wishes
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 23: Words That Breathe
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Monday is the day that Mr. Daniels goes over new vocabulary words. It's not a bad lesson for Ally, since she can... (full context)
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...to answer, but she feels like an expert on those words. She feels as though Mr. Daniels can see right into her lonely heart and says that being alone can be a... (full context)
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Mr. Daniels looks sad and Ally can barely remember what she even said. She hears Mr. Daniels... (full context)
Chapter 24: Imaginary Hero
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Mr. Daniels assigns a writing exercise where students must write about a fictional character they consider a... (full context)
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The next day, Mr. Daniels calls Ally up to his desk. He's holding her paper and asks Ally to read... (full context)
Chapter 25: Celebration or Devastation?
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Mr. Daniels looks surprisingly happy one morning. He announces that after they wrote nature poems last week,... (full context)
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...appear in the Sketchbook of Impossible Things. She's happy she has her poem memorized when Mr. Daniels invites her to read it. He motions for everyone to applaud and as Ally watches... (full context)
Chapter 26: Stalling
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...bathroom and asks why Ally ran from an award. She's puzzled when Ally insists that Mr. Daniels was just trying to be nice. Ally asks Keisha if she expects her bike to... (full context)
Chapter 28: Deal of a Lifetime
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As kids leave for lunch, Mr. Daniels calls Ally to his desk. He compliments her on her opinions and answers and says... (full context)
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...knows how to play. Ally knows what it is but doesn't know how to play. Mr. Daniels says that Ally would like it and offers to teach her after school. Ally knows... (full context)
Chapter 29: Fish in a Tree
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...acorns at a tree, Ally picks one up too, and Shay laughs at Albert when Mr. Daniels isn't looking. Ally tells her not to, so Shay says she'll laugh at Ally instead.... (full context)
Dyslexia, Intelligence, and Learning Theme Icon
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...she finds a swing set that reminds her of Grandpa. Before too long, she notices Mr. Daniels 's feet in front of her. He asks if she'll tell him what happened, but... (full context)
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Finally, Ally says that nobody's going to be able to help her because she's dumb. Mr. Daniels seems shocked to hear that she believes this, and says Ally isn't dumb. When Ally... (full context)
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Finally, Mr. Daniels says that he's spoken to Mrs. Silver and Miss Kessler, and they'd like to give... (full context)
Chapter 30: Miserable King
Dyslexia, Intelligence, and Learning Theme Icon
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...they go through some puzzles and games. After school, Ally has her first chess lesson. Mr. Daniels goes through the pieces and the goal of the game. Surprisingly for Ally, she's relaxed.... (full context)
Chapter 31: Lots of Ways Home
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A week later when Ally stays after school, Mr. Daniels says he has news: Ally does have dyslexia, she's very bright, and he needs her... (full context)
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...it'd help and agrees. They shake hands and then Ally asks what "learning differences" are. Mr. Daniels likens it to how there are multiple ways to get somewhere; there are different ways... (full context)
Chapter 32: Screen Time
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...tries to control her excitement. Mom seems ready to cry as Ally tells Dad about Mr. Daniels , Ally, Keisha, and Shay. Then, Ally says goodbye and Travis has his turn. Travis... (full context)
Chapter 33: Possibilities
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Ally's afternoons with Mr. Daniels get easier because she's happy, but the work is hard. She struggles to understand that... (full context)
Chapter 34: Birth of a Star
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...has trouble with reading and writing. Keisha insists that they don't care. Ally continues that Mr. Daniels says she has dyslexia, and he's been helping her after school. Mumbling, she says that... (full context)
Chapter 35: A Picture is Worth a Gazillion Words
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...doesn't stop Shay and hands out paper. Ally is mortified and can't figure out why Mr. Daniels betrayed her. She gets up and walks out, telling the angry sub she drew a... (full context)
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...cry as she thinks that she's tired of being a failure and feels hurt that Mr. Daniels betrayed her. All she can say is "Mom?" Mom asks for Mrs. Silver again. Ally... (full context)
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...compliments Ally on her "ghost in a blizzard" line and listens as Ally says that Mr. Daniels was the first teacher she trusted. Mom encourages her to give Mr. Daniels a chance... (full context)
Chapter 36: In the Game of Life...
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The next morning, Mr. Daniels calls Ally into the hallway. He says that he never intended for the sub to... (full context)
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That afternoon as Ally and Mr. Daniels play chess, Ally thinks that Keisha is like a bishop—able to move quickly. Albert is... (full context)
Chapter 37: A Chicken, a Wolf, and a Problem
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On Friday, Mr. Daniels gives his class a puzzle: they must move a chicken, a wolf, and bag of... (full context)
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Shay moves closer, tells Ally that she's stupid, and says that Mr. Daniels is only nice because he feels bad for her. Jessica squeakily suggests they go back... (full context)
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Mr. Daniels calls the class to attention and says the puzzle had two components: solving the puzzle... (full context)
Chapter 38: Loser for President
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Mr. Daniels asks the students if they have nominations for class president. Jessica nominates Shay and no... (full context)
Chapter 39: To-Shay
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Albert and Keisha give Ally one more pep talk and then, Mr. Daniels calls Shay to give her speech. Shay's campaign promises are impossible, like bigger lockers and... (full context)
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Mr. Daniels says it's time for the vote and passes out scraps of paper. When Shay says... (full context)
Chapter 41: Not-So-Secret Letter
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...she's class president. She finds an envelope on her desk at school. It's not from Mr. Daniels ; it's in cursive and has Max's name at the bottom. Ally can't read it,... (full context)
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Mr. Daniels calls the class to order and then tells everyone that if they have suggestions for... (full context)
Chapter 42: The Gifts of No Excuses, Scotch Tape, and Antibiotics
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Mr. Daniels calls Ally to his desk to give her something. Ally is excited until she sees... (full context)
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Mr. Daniels introduces a unit on persuasive writing by asking students to tell him what they'd like... (full context)
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Mr. Daniels tells Oliver he's one of a kind. Suki raises her hand and says that according... (full context)
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...tissue and says he's going to bury it. Shay starts laughing but stops immediately when Mr. Daniels sternly reprimands her. He says they all need to work to accept each other and... (full context)
Chapter 44: Tales of a Sixth Grade Something
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...her book report project, a diorama about Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, the book Mr. Daniels asked her to read, is too big. Travis is surprised that Ally looks so happy... (full context)
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...the Army, fist bumps Ally, and then tells everyone about Ally's dad. Shay looks angry. Mr. Daniels tells Ally he's proud of her and Ally thinks that she's never heard that from... (full context)
Chapter 45: My Brother's Question
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...looks stiff and stands in her doorway. He nervously asks Ally what she does with Mr. Daniels to help her read. Ally tells him about some of the exercises and says it's... (full context)
Chapter 47: Great Minds Don't Think Alike
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Mr. Daniels introduces a new social studies unit on famous people. He stands up photos at the... (full context)
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Mr. Daniels talks about some of the other people's contributions to the world and then says that... (full context)
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...stays seated, looking at the pictures. She wonders if those people believed they were stupid. Mr. Daniels kneels in front of her and asks if she's okay, and Ally asks him to... (full context)
Chapter 51: C-O-U-R-A-GEnius
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Ally asks Mr. Daniels if she can renew her library book, which makes him extremely happy. He tells her... (full context)
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...is the student of the month. Ally is ecstatic and runs back to the classroom. Mr. Daniels announces that Ally is the student of the month and the class applauds. Shay says... (full context)
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...then asks him to wait. Ally races back to her classroom and right up to Mr. Daniels 's desk. She pulls out the piece of paper that says "possible" and asks Mr.... (full context)
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...to the gym and then hands Travis the piece of paper with "possible" on it. Mr. Daniels arrives a moment later, introduces himself, and compliments Ally. He explains what they do after... (full context)