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The author of the beloved One for the Murphys gives readers an emotionally-charged, uplifting novel that will speak to anyone who’s ever thought there was something wrong with them because they didn’t fit in.
Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.”
Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions. She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.
1. Read the Albert Einstein quote shared by Mr. Daniels; “Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.” What does this quote mean to you? How does it relate to Ally?
2. Who are Ally’s heroes? What have they done or said that stays with her?
3. Discuss how Ally reacts when Shay bullies her and others. Why does Albert not stand up to the boys who pick on him? Have you ever been bullied or been a bully to someone else? Discuss how it felt and what you might do differently next time.
4. Ally likes to use the phrase “mind movies” when explaining how she envisions situations playing out. What is the significance of her mind movies? How do they relate to some of her talents?
5. Ally compares her being called a “slow reader” to people thinking she is like “a can of soup, and they can just read the list of ingredients and know everything about me.” How do we label each other? How do you label yourself? Discuss how labeling can help us make sense of the world but also limit our view of others & ourselves.
6. How does the friendship between Ally, Albert, and Keisha benefit each one of them? Contrast their relationship with the friendship between Shay & Jessica. What friendships help you be your best self?
7. What does Mr. Daniels do to encourage and motivate Ally? What teachers have had a significant impact on your life? How?
8. How does Ally show a growth mindset? Discuss a situation where you have shown a growth mindset and when you have shown a fixed mindset. Why is a growth mindset important in your life?
9. If you could have dinner with any character from the book, whom would you choose? Please give specific reasons why you chose whom you did.
Lynda Mullaly Hunt is the author of New York Times bestseller Fish in a Tree, as well as One for the Murphys, which is on thirtyone state award lists. She’s a former teacher, and holds writers retreats 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.