Great Minds Don’t Think Alike by Stacey Riedmiller
Sometimes, as a reader, you find Heart Print Books. You know the ones: they get in there and nestle right into the very core of you. The characters are people who become friends, settings that become tangible. For me, these stories (or experiences), have helped shaped me as a woman, friend, daughter, wife, mother, teacher or more generally, as a human being. From The Life You Save May Be Your Own (go read this NOW, Flannery O’Conner is amazing) to All the Bright Places, stories from impeccable storytellers continue to mold my very being.
After reading One For the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, I knew that the author had a knack for understanding the mind of my middle grades people. I waited patiently for Fish in a Tree to be released. With deep personal and professional experiences with special education, everything about this story appealed to me from the start. My fifth graders that love Realistic Fiction anticipated the release right along with me.
Ally’s experiences in school have been less than desirable. She is a 6th grade student who is so real. Immediately, we pick up on her love for Art, something that is quickly dismissed by her Aide as “doodling.” She struggles in school, so much at certain points that your heart just breaks for her. Ally is good at hiding it, too. As a teacher, we all have these kids in our classes. They try to fly under the radar, hoping to God that they’ll never be called on in class. I could relate to Ally, myself. I was Ally, to some extent, never with reading, but in other subject areas. All I needed, like our Protagonist, was for someone to take an interest in my learning. Validate that I was smart, maybe just in a different way.
Ally is the kid in your class that needs YOU. You know who you are: that teacher who takes the time to really get to know their kids, the teacher who lives and breathes their “calling,” as I like to call it. Mr. Daniels. Mr. Daniels comes in and just makes you want to be a better teacher and a better person. Things start to change for Ally and we are right along for the ride with her as you feel her start to open up and grow tremendously with the help of her brother, friends and new teacher. All it takes for many of our kids is one teacher who cares, one teacher who gets it. Mr. Daniels inspired me to go into school that next day and just love and appreciate my Fantasticos. Ally inspired me to never give up and to be sure to really see my kids for whom they are.
If you’re looking for a story that makes you feel all the feels you felt while reading Wonder, Out of My Mind, Counting by 7’s, Rules, How to Speak Dolphin, One For the Murphys and/or The One & Only Ivan, Fish in a Tree does not disappoint. There isn’t a single educator out there that should miss out on this title. We need to take the time to really step out of ourselves and try to understand our kids. Fish in a Tree is a start. Sit down at the lunch table with Ally & Keisha, and remember, “Everyone is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life thinking it’s stupid.”
Stacey Riedmiller is a Floating 4th/5th Grade Language Arts Teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio. She loves spending her time with her husband and two daughters, reading book after book, and learning all that she can about Education and Literacy. She likes to blog at literacyforbigkids.blogspot.com about her endless quest to turn her Fantasticos into life-long readers. Follow her on Twitter: @riedmillersroom.