A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant literary classic that tells the story of Francie Nolan as she grows up in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY, from 1902 to 1919. The novel brings to life the world in which Francie lives, yet portrays experiences that kids of any era can relate to -- navigating sibling relationships, making new friends, and discovering first love. It also deals with more serious subjects, such as Francie's father's alcoholism, the death of a loved one, an attempted molestation, and premarital sex causing a ruined reputation. Yet, these issues are seen through the eyes of an innocent young girl and presented in an emotionally authentic way.
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What's the story?
Francie Nolan is a smart, astute, imaginative girl who loves reading. She lives in the slums of Williamsburg, in Brooklyn, where her mother, Katie, works as a cleaning lady and her father, Johnny, holds unsteady jobs due to his alcoholism. Francie spends much of her day with her younger brother, Neeley, or reading books. She loves school and learning, and fears that her family may not be able to afford to continue sending her to school.The novel follows Francie from age 11 until she's a young woman with a job. As she grows up, Francie and her family struggle to make ends meet and often go to bed hungry. Yet, she loves her family, especially her often-singing father and her aunts, who have their own sordid lives, and experiences first love.
Is it any good?
A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN is a called a classic for a reason: It's beautifully written, insightful, and Francie's story is timeless. While the unfolding plot has ups, downs, twists, and turns, Francie's introspective, wise perspective makes this work the honest novel that it is. Readers will rejoice in Francie's highest highs and mourn in her lowest lows. The story also underscores the powerful impact of place on childhood.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how A Tree Grows in Brooklyn compares with other coming-of-age novels. What makes Francie's story unique, and what's similar to what other coming-of-age protagonists experience?
Ask your parents what impact the place they grew up in had on their lives.
Why do you think this novel is considered a classic?
- Author: Betty Smith
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date: January 1, 1943
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: December 3, 2018
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