Celeste's Reviews > A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty  Smith
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Jul 24, 2017

it was amazing
bookshelves: classics-i-ve-read, favorites, best-books-i-ve-ever-read

Perfect. Absolutely perfect. The only thing that could have improved my experience with this book would have been finding it fifteen years sooner. I wish twelve year-old me had known this book existed, and had been able to experience the life of Francie Nolan when we were closer to the same age. But even as an adult, I’ve found a kindred spirit in this scrappy little girl from Brooklyn, and watching her grow up and experience both heartaches and triumph was one of the most wonderful reading journeys I’ve ever embarked upon. Better late than never.

Francie and her family are incredibly poor, barely able to scrape by. Meals are sometimes scant, sometimes skipped. But in spite of hunger and cold, Francie is happy. She experiences life to the absolute fullest, wringing enjoyment from every possible source. Is she sometimes unhappy and angry and afraid? Of course. But she overcomes adversity by following doggedly in the footsteps of her mother, but with her father’s sunnier outlook on life.

Witnessing all the various ways in which Francie’s life changes, be they slow and steady changes or alterations that spring up fast enough to induce whiplash, is a study in the human condition and a child’s resilience. But what I loved most here was Francie’s intense love of words, and how that love manifests itself during different portions of her life. I have never in my life related more to a quote from a book than I did this one:

“From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books because her friends and there was one for every mood.”


I had a hard time making friends with kids my own age when I first started school. I could strike up conversations with adults and even older kids, no problem. But I didn’t relate well to people my own age. Plus, I looked kind of funny, and there’s no one in the world meaner than kids. So I submersed myself in fiction for the first five years of elementary school. Once I got braces and grew into my ears and hit puberty, I developed friendships with most of my (very small) class. But, until then, I carried a book with me onto the playground and into the cafeteria every single day. So the magic Francie found in books, I found too.

It’s hard to explain why this book impacted me so much. It’s just the story of a poor girl growing up in Brooklyn in the early 1900s. But she was so real to me. And every character I saw through her eyes was real, even with their flaws, whether those flaws were real or simply implied by Francie. She’s fictional, but I love her. I love her family and her neighbors and the character of her neighborhood itself. Betty Smith did a fantastic job showing us Francie’s life through the girl’s own eyes, instead of just telling us about it.

If you’ve never read this book, you should. It’s a classic for a reason, and it’s one I’ll be revisiting again and again. If there’s a little girl in your life who inhales books like the words they contain are oxygen, please give her a copy of this book. She’ll find a lifelong friend in France Nolan. I know I did.

For more of my reviews, as well as my own fiction and thoughts on life, check out my blog, Celestial Musings.
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Reading Progress

September 25, 2016 – Shelved
September 25, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
July 17, 2017 – Started Reading
July 17, 2017 –
page 20
4.03% ""THE LIBRARY WAS A LITTLE OLD SHABBY PLACE. FRANCIE THOUGHT it was beautiful. The feeling she had about it was as good as the feeling she had about church. She pushed open the door and went in. She liked the combined smell of worn leather bindings, library paste and freshly inked stamping pads better than she liked the smell of burning incense at high mass.""
July 20, 2017 –
page 164
33.06% ""From then on, the world was hers for the reading.""
July 20, 2017 –
page 164
33.06% ""From then on, the world was hers for the reading.""
July 23, 2017 –
page 277
55.85% "Why is everything I'm reading so sad?! 😭😭😭"
July 24, 2017 –
page 413
83.27% "“Dear God, let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry… have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere—be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute.”"
July 24, 2017 – Shelved as: classics-i-ve-read
July 24, 2017 – Shelved as: favorites
July 24, 2017 – Finished Reading
October 1, 2017 – Shelved as: best-books-i-ve-ever-read

Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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message 1: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy I've seen this title around for ages, but I've never seen anyone review it, so I had no idea what it was about. Thank you for your lovely review. It sounds like one I would have appreciated as a child and still would as an adult. I was the kid who escaped into books because I didn't really relate to kids my age.


Celeste Thank you so much, Amy! It was a truly wonderful book!


message 3: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Barrow Wilfong I also enjoyed this book. It was a time where no one felt entitled. Life was what you chose to make of it. I think that is why they weren't stagnant. The people moved up in the world. Maybe their parents did not get an education but they made sure their kids did.


Celeste I completely agree, Sharon. Life was what you made it!


Renee Loved this book! Glad to see people still discovering it today.


Celeste Thanks, Renee!! It was wonderful. Also, your name is my middle name! 😁


Jolene I also discovered this book a bit later in life and it is one of my top 5 all-time favourites, for sure!


Celeste It's up there for me as well, Jolene!


message 9: by ☽Luna☾ (new)

☽Luna☾ Another fantastic review!


Celeste Aw, thank you, my love! 😘


message 11: by Emma (new) - added it

Emma This has been on my tbr list for a long time. From your review, I can already identify with Francie as much as you did and probably for the same reason!


Celeste I hope you get a chance to read it soon and that you enjoy it as much as I did, Emma!


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