Cover Reveal: Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
I am honored to reveal the cover of my second novel, Fish in a Tree, here on The Nerdy Book Club. It makes sense because the more I got into writing it, the more I realized that this book is a love letter to teachers—to one in particular—and to all others like him.
Shortly after the release of One for the Murphys, I was thrilled to do a blog post for Nerdy Book Club entitled, The Year I Met Peter, about a book that changed my life. But, really, the undercurrents of that post were more about the teacher who handed me the book rather than the book itself.
Constantine Christy was my sixth grade teacher. He was unhappy to be turning fifty that year and I remember feeling sorry for the guy—being so old and all. (How perspectives change 🙂
Now, having been a teacher myself for ten years, I further understand what a phenomenal teacher he really was. He would often pull kids into the adjoining room for short chats—and I was the recipient of many. He knew when to be serious and when to be funny. He knew when to be strict and when to lighten up. He knew when to offer help and when to foster independence. And he knew when to simply ask, “How are things?”
Sometimes I’d show up at school to find he had a special project for me such as working with a first grader as a math tutor. I loved it, but what struck me the most was that, in order to do that, he must have thought of me outside of school. I was stunned by that.
Up until that point, my teachers had largely written me off as “slow.” (I’m sure my standardized test results told them I was pretty much illiterate.) The year before, my teacher hadn’t asked me for a single assignment. Many kids would think that pretty great, but it wasn’t. Why? Because I was smart enough to know what it meant. He thought it didn’t matter.
There is more of me in Fish in a Tree than any other book I have worked on. There are several scenes lifted right out of my own life; some of it was tough to get on paper because I’d get choked up. Mr. Christy saved me. He really did. He had a quiet confidence in me and, by the time I left sixth grade, I did too.
While I was a sophomore at The University of Connecticut, I saw Mr. Christy at a restaurant called AC Petersen Farms which figures prominently in the book. (The three main characters, Ally, Albert, and Keisha sit in that same booth many times.) I went over, and he immediately knew who I was. Remembered my name. I told him I’d been studying to be a teacher and doing well. He smiled without showing teeth and gave a single, emphatic nod. “Of course you are,” he said, clearing his throat. “Of course you are.”
“It’s because of you,” I said. “I want to be the kind of teacher that you are.”
“Oh, thank you,” he said, looking down at the table and rearranging his silverware. When he looked back up, he asked about my older brother, Ricky, who had also been his student. That was Mr. Christy – not one to take credit when he so clearly deserved it.
Teachers…I know it isn’t an eight-to-three job like many assume. I know that you carry more—are responsible for more—than you ought to be. I know the job of teaching kids is made more difficult by testing expectations that don’t often serve children. I know you work a ton of weekends and over the summer. Your kids are never too far from your thoughts.
But I also know firsthand (from both sides of the desk) the kind of influence a teacher possesses. You are life changers. If you care for a child’s heart and soul as well as her mind by setting high expectations, maybe—just maybe—she’ll find you in a restaurant one day and tell you how she struggled but pushed through it, got into a good school, and is ready to set the world on fire.
All because of you.
ARCs (advance reader copies) of FISH IN A TREE (excerpt here) will be available in July. I am holding a giveaway for two signed ARCs to be mailed to two winning teachers as soon as I get my hands on them. To enter, please comment on this post and/or tweet this post on Twitter with the hashtag #FIAT. The hashtag will help me find your tweet. If you’d like, you may also tag me at @Lynmullalyhunt so I can thank you personally.
GIVEAWAY ENTRIES (comments/tweets) MUST BE DATED ON OR BEFORE 7/9/14 AT 11:59 PM EST TO BE ELIGIBLE.
My thanks to The Nerdy Book Club and its countless members. I know there are many “Mr. Christys” out there.
Lynda Mullaly Hunt (www.lyndamullalyhunt.com) has received many honors for her debut novel, One for the Murphys, including Bank Street’s 2013 Best Books of the Year and a Nerdy Award in 2012. Murphys also appears on 22 state book award lists. Lynda is a former teacher, and directs the Whispering Pines Writers Retreat for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, two children, impetuous beagle, and beagle-loathing cat.