Image credited to Molly G. @ The Bumbles Blog
There’s a tree that grows in Brooklyn.
Some people call it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed falls, it makes a tree which struggles to reach the sky. It grows in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps. It grows up out of cellar gratings. It is the only tree that grows out of cement. It grows lushly…survives without sun, water and seemingly without earth. It would be considered beautiful except that there are too many of it.
Book Title: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn
Author: Betty Smith
Original Publication Date: 1943
Edition Read: Perennial Library, 1968
Total Pages: 430
Genre: Classic Young Adult
Reason Read: Discovered my original review on the inner flap and decided to re-read
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Clearly paints a picture in your mind of the crueltys, hardships, and joys of early 1900’s lifestyle in the city of Brooklyn, New York.
Truley a classic novel.
there all girls were like Francie, the world would be a better place to live.”
~ Molly C. (long before she was Molly G.)
Forget for a moment the spelling errors in that quote. Or the fact that Brooklyn was no longer its own city in the early 1900’s but rather a borough of NYC. I was just a kid when I wrote my review on the inside of the cover of a paperback copy of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. Best I can figure, I read it the summer before I turned 14. I had just moved to CT and was preparing to start my freshman year of high school as the new kid without any friends other than the characters I met in my books. So it is no wonder I identified with Francie Nolan.
If you have never read this classic novel, it tells the tale of the Nolan family, primarily through young Francie’s eyes, living in poverty in Brooklyn in the early 1900’s. The Nolans have a way of sucking it up and getting things done. They don’t complain but always strive for better things in life for the future. They believe strongly in family and education and those ideals give Francie and her brother a reliable base from which to build. Francie is a loner who is often on the outside looking in, so she loses herself in books, her imagination and writing. She gets dealt an overdose of life lessons as the story follows her from ages 11 to 17. And your heart goes out to this determined young girl as you root for her to get lucky in life.
Well let me tell you, it must have felt comforting to have Francie in my corner while I was adjusting to a new place, all alone except for my family. There is a lot for a young girl to identify with in this book. I never experienced poverty, city living or loss of close loved ones as a child. These are strong themes within the book. But just like Francie, I did have a love for the library. I changed my mind from year to year about what dreams I had for myself and what I wanted to be. I went through times where I felt all alone without friends to turn to. I had a little brother to share things with. My mother has always worked hard and is a strong woman – so are her sisters. I loved being Daddy’s little girl. I had moments where I was picked on in school. And others where school was my favorite place to be. I made up stories in my head and learned to write them down. I wondered when I would find true love. I had relatives who could brighten a room with their storytelling. I must have wanted to make Francie my best – and only – friend in my new town. No wonder I thought the world would be a better place if everyone was like her. That would mean they were kind and smart and sensitive – especially to girls like me.
Thankfully I found some real life girls who took me under their wing the first few weeks of high school and they remain my dear friends to this very day. They made my new town feel like a place I could think of as home. And I didn’t need to drown myself in books and writing – I could actually join the world of the living. But Francie got me through that rough patch. She was just what I needed.
When I found the musty old paperback on the bookshelves at my parents’ on a visit back to CT I borrowed it since I didn’t remember much other than a strong sense of sentimentality and fondness. Imagine my surprise when, months later, I opened it up and found my teenage review. I was even more intrigued to re-discover this story. Reading this again entering my 40’s, I can look back fondly and see why I enjoyed it so much the first time around. What makes this novel so endearing is that there is a piece of Francie in most any young girl who loves to read. And getting to meet her and the rest of the Nolan family again was a real treat.
I would have to say that my original review was spot on. The world needs more Francies in it. But if you don’t have one handy, you can always go right to the source and bond with the girl in the book.
Do you have a favorite book that helped you through your childhood journey?