A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Book - 2005
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York. Especially in the summer of 1912. Somber, as a word, was better. But it did not apply to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Prairie was lovely and Shenandoah had a beautiful sound, but you couldn't fit those words into Brooklyn. Serene was the only word for it; especially on a Saturday afternoon in summer. Late in the afternoon the sun slanted down into the mossy yard belonging to Francie Nolan's house, and warmed the worn wooden fence. Looking at the shafted sun, Francie had that same fine feeling that came when she recalled the poem they recited in school. This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight, Stand like Druids of eld. The one tree in Francie's yard was neither a pine nor a hemlock. It had pointed leaves which grew along green switches which radiated from the bough and made a tree which looked like a lot of opened green umbrellas. Some people called it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed fell, it made a tree which struggled to reach the sky. It grew in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps and it was the only tree that grew out of cement. It grew lushly, but only in the tenements districts
Publisher: New York : Perennial Classics, 2005
Edition: Current Perennial classics ed
ISBN: 9780060736262
Characteristics: xi, 493 p. ; 21 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Nov 29, 2017

What a beautiful story. I can't believe I have overlooked it for so long. Francie's life is like that tree that grows in the backyard of her Brooklyn apartment. It finds a way to thrive no matter what the circumstance. As I read Francie's story, I made notes on so many phrases and paragraphs throughout the book.

There is a pivotal moment in Francie's life when her teacher teaches her the difference between truth and fiction. After confessing to her teacher that she has concocted a false story so that she could take a small pie home for herself, the teachers says, "In the future, when something comes up, you tell exactly how it happened but write down for yourself the way you think it should have happened." This was an epiphany for 10-yr-old Francie. In conjunction with this idea, there is a quote in the appendix of the edition I read from Betty Smith's daughter: "She often said about 'Tree' that she didn't write it the way it was, but the way it should have been."

I would also add that the foreword by Anna Quindlen is a wonderful addition to this printing. Having seen her speak at a library event last spring, I could hear her voice as I read the forward. It was quite a wonderful preview of this classic story of urban struggle and triumph. Highly recommended!

HMWLibrary2017 Jul 14, 2017

Simple and straightforward, but yet magical in its familiarity and universality. A classic for a good reason.

Mar 05, 2017

Just like "To Kill A Mockingbird" (which was written by Harper Lee) - "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" (which was written by Betty Smith, aka. Elisabeth Wehner) is definitely another true classic of American literature penned by a female author.

Smith was 46 when she wrote this book. It was her own experiences as a young girl (growing up in poverty) that served as the framework for this first novel. Upon its initial publication in 1943 it was an immense success.

This touching, heartfelt, coming-of-age story clearly addresses many issues, such as, survival in the slums, dealing with an alcoholic parent, and the tenacious determination to rise above difficult circumstances.

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn opens in the year 1912 where we meet 11-year-old Francie Nolan who relies on her fertile imagination and her love of reading to provide a temporary escape from the poverty that defines her daily existence.

Betty Smith, subsequently, wrote 3 other novels in her lifetime. She died in 1972 at the age of 75.

Mar 02, 2017

A classic story at the turn of the century about growing up poor in Brooklyn by parents who have problems and aspirations for their children. A great book about family, things that bring us together and ultimately motivates us. Finding good and inspiration in people.

Oct 23, 2016

Some classics don't seem to hold their own through time. This one recreates the period so well that I felt engaged and immersed in that Brooklyn. Terrific writing and great character development.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 05, 2016

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn is the story of living and wanting and hoping. It centers around a Brooklyn girl and her family in the early 1900s. Smith has truly captured what it means to be human in this debut novel. She recalls childhood with such insight that it is easy to forget you're reading.

Mar 30, 2016

It was a pretty good book, but contrived and lacking in character development in favour of the plot.

Dec 16, 2015

I loved this book and I'd just like to give a quick review. Its about a poor family named the Nolans living in the slums of Brooklyn where they struggle to keep themselves together.
When their father dies around the children's 8th grade graduation, their whole family must work to survive. The protagonist, Francie, is left with the main job making the most money for the Nolan family therefore severly lowering her chances of finishing school and becoming a writer.

adasilva7 Nov 23, 2015

A beautiful story set in early 20th century New York. Despite it's time and place, this is truly a timeless read with themes that still resonate today.

CRRL_VirginiaJohnson Jul 21, 2015

Once kept as a controlled material in many public libraries, this story of immigrant struggles in 1910s Brooklyn is a classic for a reason. The heroine is an odd duck from her peers, a reading, thoughtful child whose life parallels that of the authors. A genuinely important book. Although often taught in high school, I think older readers would grasp certain situations better. Also, it's a quiet book that's pulled along mainly by the force and hope of its gentle, strong-willed character.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability

Feb 12, 2018

gjrainey thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

Apr 01, 2015

juniap thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 12 and 99

Sep 23, 2014

julia_sedai thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

platypus101 Jul 11, 2013

platypus101 thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

rhonda65 May 03, 2011

rhonda65 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


Add a Quote

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 06, 2016

Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.

Jul 01, 2015

“The world was hers for the reading.”

"you didn't see the dirt or the meanness; you saw the glory of innocence and the poignancy of a baby growing up too soon."

Jun 26, 2014

"There had to be the dark and muddy waters so that the sun could have something to background its flashing glory" (Smith 165).


Add a Summary

This book follows the life of young Frances (Francie) Nolan. It takes you through her hard life in Brooklyn where Francie soon learns to take care of herself and others having to make sacrifices from a young age for the ones she loves. Francie's thoughtful insight teach many life lessons though seen from her perspective. This novel takes time and you grow alongside with the somewhat out of place Francie, and as it is her life story some readers may find it dull...My first read of this author and very good overall.

platypus101 Jul 11, 2013

The title of this novel refers to a tree that grows persistently up through the concrete and harsh conditions of a poor tenement neighborhood in early 1900s Brooklyn. But it is also a metaphor for the novel's protagonist, Francie Nolan. She is a sweet, innocent girl who grows and flourishes despite a harsh environment of neglect and poverty.

Jul 31, 2012

This novel centers on Francie Nolan's coming-of-age in 1910s and 1920s Brooklyn. Francie starts the novel as a poor 11-year-old girl who loves to read with an alcoholic father who she feels she understands and vice versa. They are both sentimental and talented. Francie's breadwinning mother does not have as healthy as a relationship with her daughter - she favors Francie's younger brother and "always has to have the last word." The novel is character-centric, and has little semblance of a plot


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Subject Headings


Find it at SSFPL

To Top