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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
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Archive YA/Children Group Read > 2016 YA Book of the Month ツ A Tree Grows in Brookyn by Betty Smith June 2016 → July 2016

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message 1: by Lesle, Main Moderator/Admin (last edited Jun 15, 2016 09:36AM) (new)

Lesle | 7544 comments Mod
This is our second YA Group read!

Saphia is going to be our discussion leader for our YA Classic Group Read!

Looking forward to why she chose this one!


Saphia210 | 109 comments Hello everyone!!
I will be your discussion leader for this YA Classic Group Read! First, I'll explain a little about my choice. I chose this book because I thought it was at an appropriate reading level, and because it is profoundly touching and moving for many reasons, as you'll see as we progress through the book.
Secondly, I'll start off with a question:
For those who have started this book so far, what are your impressions as of now of Francie's family and living conditions? Your overall impressions?
If you haven't started the book, I hope you'll start it soon: Otherwise, have any of you had previous exposure to this book?


mollusskka | 56 comments I'll join the discussion and gonna read it soon. : )


Nicole Power (nicolepower) | 28 comments Hi, Saphia!

I am looking forward to following along with your discussion! I just read this book this year, and it is actually the reason I joined this group. I loved it so much I wanted to read more classics :)

I had read about soldiers that read it during wartime and said it made them feel like they were home again. From what they said, it was a very realistic portrayal about what life in America was like at that time, which makes Francie and her family's living conditions feel different when reading it. You definitely feel for them, living with very little food and very impoverished. But it also has that realistic feeling of them not thinking about that too much, this is their life and they are just working the hardest they can to survive day by day. It was very realistic the things Francie wanted and how little it took to make her feel content. When you don't have much, it doesn't take much.


Saphia210 | 109 comments Nicole wrote: "Hi, Saphia!

I am looking forward to following along with your discussion! I just read this book this year, and it is actually the reason I joined this group. I loved it so much I wanted to read mo..."

Hi Nicole!
It's interesting that we're able to know that it really is realistic, from the wartime soldiers' perspective. I guess situations like the one that Francie's family goes through are often overlooked.
That's great insight, what you said about Francie wanting little, and not needing a lot to make her feel content.


Saphia210 | 109 comments eKa wrote: "I'll join the discussion and gonna read it soon. : )"

Great, I hope we'll hear back on your progress!


Saphia210 | 109 comments How do the living conditions define what is seen as valuable by the children in Francie's neighborhood?
(Chapter 1)


message 8: by Rosemarie, Moderator III/ from Canada / YA Classics (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 11277 comments Mod
I have just finished the first chapter and I like Francie and her family. Her mother works hard and Francie and her brother are scavengers to earn extra pennies for their family. The people are poor but they also have fun.
When Francie was in the bakery waiting for the bread, she was thinking that all those old men were babies once. This is a mature thought, but then she reverted back to thinking like a child when she imagined herself as an old toothless woman with ugly toes.
Betty Smith writes vividly and I can just picture that hot dusty street in Brooklyn.


mollusskka | 56 comments I'd just finished chapter one. (btw I read the Indonesian version, so sorry if i used different term for the same thing)

I agree with you Rosemarie about the description written in the book. So detailed until sometimes I found difficulties to picture it so I just went on with my own description about the neighborhood. And I was kind of surprised that Neeley was in charge for the money because he's a boy. In my country, Indonesia, woman always in charge of the money running in the family.

It's so funny when Francie said the roads in Brooklyn is so ugly but with beautiful name. Also the name of the shops which sometimes deceitful, like Cheap Charlie, LOL. Francie really loves tree. And I think as long as there are trees in her neighborhood she'll be happy. And yes, she is so mature for her age to be thinking about the old man and baby thing.

Actually, the children live in "danger" of sexual abuse only they didn't realize it yet. That old Gimpy is scary.


Saphia210 | 109 comments Rosemarie wrote: "I have just finished the first chapter and I like Francie and her family. Her mother works hard and Francie and her brother are scavengers to earn extra pennies for their family. The people are poo..."

I agree with you, Francie and her family are very likeable.
However, people may begin to have differing viewpoints further into the book!! We'll see..
Anyway, I do agree with your look on Francie's mature thinking, which reverted back to "little kid" thinking...fearing old age.
And one reason I love this book is because of Betty Smith's writing, it's absolutely incredible.


Saphia210 | 109 comments eKa wrote: "I'd just finished chapter one. (btw I read the Indonesian version, so sorry if i used different term for the same thing)

I agree with you Rosemarie about the description written in the book. So d..."


Very perceptive. I would say keep in mind the things that you noticed....Francie really loves trees, the deceptive irony here and there in the book, and yes that slightly pedophile twist...
And it's interesting that in Indonesia the women are the ones that are usually in charge. But remember, this is only the first chapter, so who knows what might happen! :D


Saphia210 | 109 comments In response to eKa, do you guys think that Neeley is actually in charge, or just bossy?
And as the book progresses, we find out more about Francie's family...
Let me know when you guys get past chapter two. I believe that the extended members of Francie's family are quite intriguing....


Saphia210 | 109 comments On another note, why do you think that the children would call other children "rag pickers" even though they too were in the same situation?


mollusskka | 56 comments About the money thing, what surprised me the most is that Francie actually older than Neeley yet she let Neeley to be in charge of the money just because he's a boy. While in my country, as I said, women usually in charge unless she is a lot younger than the son which likely unable to be responsible as other wish.

I don't think Neeley is bossy. I mean, the arrangmenet seemed to be agreed by both sides. It's what I thought after reading chapter one. Who knows the next chapter.

About the rag pickers, I think they are, as a matter of fact, ashamed of their job, yet they still have to do it because the money is pretty good. It seemed that's the only job they can take and so close to their neighborhood.


mollusskka | 56 comments I really liked chapter two. How I relate so much with Francie since she likes reading so much. (I guess you all do : ) So cute reading how she loves going to the library and borrowing a book. Two books for Sunday and one is especially recommended by the librarian, which is always the same book hahaha. I couldn't help my self smiling when reading Francie arranged how she would read in the extra ladder with snacks and drink around her. So cute!!! She knows how to enjoy her life!

And about the walking ad by the horse. It was really killing me. But it's wonderful knowing how 1912 life was going back then. Oh, and in chapter two I got more assured that Francie is a mature girl and so observant of her surrounding. Maybe because she loves reading so much and doesn't have a friend. Btw, I never read she played with her friends so far. In chapter one she only mention some girl names in the shop.


mollusskka | 56 comments Hi, I just read chapter 3 and it has many story about Francie's father. Well, he's a boozer and kinda irresponsible with his family but somehow I like him. And I can understand why Francie loves her father more than her mom.

What do guys think about Johnny Nolan/Francie's father?


message 17: by Rosemarie, Moderator III/ from Canada / YA Classics (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 11277 comments Mod
I like him too. He may drink to much and not have a steady job, but it is obvious how much he loves his family. He is very charming. Men often beat their wives when they were drunk, but he is kind to his family, just really bad with money.


message 18: by Rosemarie, Moderator III/ from Canada / YA Classics (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 11277 comments Mod
Here is a description of the women in Francie's family, found at the end of chapter 7:

They were all slender, frail creatures with wondering eyes and soft fluttery voices.

But they were made out of thin invisible steel.


mollusskka | 56 comments So that include Katie? I imagine her with a harsh voice because she defended Francie from her sister about wasting coffee when they are poor.


message 20: by Nicole (last edited Jun 22, 2016 08:32AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nicole Power (nicolepower) | 28 comments eKa wrote: "About the money thing, what surprised me the most is that Francie actually older than Neeley yet she let Neeley to be in charge of the money just because he's a boy. While in my country, as I said,..."

It is very interesting to see how this book is perceived by someone living in a different country with the opposite culture. In the very early 1900s America, when this book is set, gender roles were very defined. Men were "in charge" and took care of money and women were taking care of children and the home if possible. This book is set before the World Wars where those roles got to be shifted.

I think this explains a lot of the issues Frannie and Neely's parents have with their personal self-esteem and how they relate to each other, because they do not fit into those roles that they were raised to expect. Frannie's father feels like it's his job to provide money for the family, but he cannot and so he feels awful and drinks. And Frannie's mother is always embarrassed by her hands because they show how hard she works physically to provide.


Nicole Power (nicolepower) | 28 comments eKa wrote: "Hi, I just read chapter 3 and it has many story about Francie's father. Well, he's a boozer and kinda irresponsible with his family but somehow I like him. And I can understand why Francie loves he..."

I agree. All through the book, I like Johnny, even though I know he should do better. He's just very likable and you feel bad for him.


Nicole Power (nicolepower) | 28 comments They were all slender, frail creatures with wondering eyes and soft fluttery voices.

But they were made out of thin invisible steel. "


I thought this was one of the most gorgeous lines I've ever read in anything.


mollusskka | 56 comments So i guess this is where the thing is a lil different between my country and America. In the early days, husband's in charge of making money, but for the spending it's the wife's duty. She takes care of the money, the children, the food etc. Mostly she is a housewife, not working outside. that's why in the early days women in my country didn't go to school coz they think it's useless. in fact, they weren't allowed to go to school. women stays at home when she's married.
so i'm quite astounded that Francie's still manage to go to school even when she comes from a poor family. is it free, btw?


message 24: by Rosemarie, Moderator III/ from Canada / YA Classics (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 11277 comments Mod
In answer to your question, eKa, education was free and so were the libraries. In those days most of the poor children left school when they were 14 so they could get a job to support their family. Some went to high school, but very very few went on to college or university.


message 25: by Rosemarie, Moderator III/ from Canada / YA Classics (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 11277 comments Mod
eKa wrote: "So that include Katie? I imagine her with a harsh voice because she defended Francie from her sister about wasting coffee when they are poor."

I checked the list just to be sure and Katie is on the list too.


Saphia210 | 109 comments eKa wrote: "About the money thing, what surprised me the most is that Francie actually older than Neeley yet she let Neeley to be in charge of the money just because he's a boy. While in my country, as I said,..."

I agree. What I was thinking is that it is the little dignity they have (the ragpickers).


Saphia210 | 109 comments eKa wrote: "I really liked chapter two. How I relate so much with Francie since she likes reading so much. (I guess you all do : ) So cute reading how she loves going to the library and borrowing a book. Two b..."

Francie reminds me of when I was in first grade. I was trying to fall asleep and started thinking about death. How morbid. XD


Saphia210 | 109 comments Nicole wrote: "eKa wrote: "About the money thing, what surprised me the most is that Francie actually older than Neeley yet she let Neeley to be in charge of the money just because he's a boy. While in my country..."
That's really observant, and I absolutely agree with that. That is probably one of the main sources of struggle.


message 29: by Saphia210 (last edited Jun 24, 2016 09:48PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Saphia210 | 109 comments Nicole wrote: "They were all slender, frail creatures with wondering eyes and soft fluttery voices.

But they were made out of thin invisible steel. "

I thought this was one of the most gorgeous lines I've ever ..."


If you read further on, there is a part in the book that completely captures my heart. I'll let everyone know once people get further in!


Saphia210 | 109 comments So...I'm not sure how far in everyone is. But since ten days have passed, and we all read at different paces, I hope that everyone will be up to chapter 15 soon.
Anyway, so there are a few things that i think are important to keep in mind.
Firstly, the children are very mindful of the little money they have.
Also, the different characters we have encountered: Francie, Neeley, Mr. Nolan (Johnny), Katie Nolan, Sissy, Aunt Evy, Uncle willie, and so on.
As Nicole wrote: "They were all slender, frail creatures with wondering eyes and soft fluttery voices.
But they were made out of thin invisible steel."
I think this is also a very interesting line, from the end of chapter 2: "The difference was that Flossie Gaddis was starved about men and Sissy was healthily hungry about them. And what a difference that made."
^Foreshadowing. There are interesting connections that can be made between the line about "...they were made out of thin invisible steel" and what is in store for all of the characters..


Saphia210 | 109 comments Just to check, can people who are participating give an update on how far in they are?
Thanks, I don't want to spoil any parts of the book! :)


message 32: by Rosemarie, Moderator III/ from Canada / YA Classics (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 11277 comments Mod
I have just finished chapter 14.


mollusskka | 56 comments Hi, Saphia, glad you're back. I just finished chapter 7. How slow. And here I got introduced to even more interesting characters. Like you've said above and also Thomas Romelly. All Romelly girls have a very interesting life. Like Francie, i like Sissy too.

it's shocking you'd thought about death at such a young age.


message 34: by Rosemarie, Moderator III/ from Canada / YA Classics (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 11277 comments Mod
I have just started reading about Francie's vaccination and then about her school. How hard it was for poor children back then, because they were not given the same opportunity as those children whose family had more money. I like the way Aunt Sissy came to Francie's rescue when she had a chat with the mean teacher.

I don't want to give too much away, so I haven't given any specific details.


mollusskka | 56 comments Wow, it seems more and more interesting as the turning pages, Rosemarie. Can't wait to get there. To be honest, I like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn more than Emma, because it's funnier and more interesting both in characters and the story. At least, so far. But surely I won't give up on Emma. : )


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Kathy (kathywillow) | 34 comments I'm on chapter 23. I love Francie's relationship with her Dad. I'm not sure he deserves it, but she adores him. But my favorite part so far is her love of books and learning. From the moment she learns to read she is addicted to reading. I love her spot on the fire escape where she prepares a snack and settles in for a good read. :)


message 37: by Rosemarie, Moderator III/ from Canada / YA Classics (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 11277 comments Mod
I have just finished the chapter where she learns to read and finds a way to escape from her poverty and loneliness. Reading a page of Shakespeare and a page of the Bible a day gives Francie a very interesting vocabulary for a little girl.


message 38: by Rosemarie, Moderator III/ from Canada / YA Classics (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 11277 comments Mod
Chapter 24 is all about the election and the ways used to get people to vote for a certain party. At that time women couldn't vote yet, only the men.
Johnny is very opinionated because he says, "Women don't know anything about politics." This is ironic because Katie does know how corrupt politics were in Brooklyn at that time.


Saphia210 | 109 comments eKa wrote: "Hi, Saphia, glad you're back. I just finished chapter 7. How slow. And here I got introduced to even more interesting characters. Like you've said above and also Thomas Romelly. All Romelly girls h..."

I shock myself all the time. Then again, you learn something new every day.


Saphia210 | 109 comments Rosemarie wrote: "I have just started reading about Francie's vaccination and then about her school. How hard it was for poor children back then, because they were not given the same opportunity as those children wh..."

i remember how outraged I was when I read that part. It probably would have been very hard, maybe impossible for me to restrain myself if I was in Francie's position.


Saphia210 | 109 comments eKa wrote: "Wow, it seems more and more interesting as the turning pages, Rosemarie. Can't wait to get there. To be honest, I like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn more than Emma, because it's funnier and more interes..."

Ahhh...I'm ashamed to say I gave up on Emma when I initially tried to read it a couple years back.
However, I've never given a book up quicker than The Maze Runner. I couldn't even get through the first chapter.


Saphia210 | 109 comments Rosemarie wrote: "Chapter 24 is all about the election and the ways used to get people to vote for a certain party. At that time women couldn't vote yet, only the men.
Johnny is very opinionated because he says, "Wo..."


I find that irony even in the book I'm currently reading. The women often make the merchandise that the men sell in this book, yet the men receive the credit and money.
So, that leads to my next question.
Are there any other forms of irony, or specifically situational irony, that most stand out to you as a reader?


message 43: by Rosemarie, Moderator III/ from Canada / YA Classics (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 11277 comments Mod
I have just finished Chapter 28. In this chapter Francie becomes more aware of her surroundings and is leaving childhood behind. How does she see the world differently now?


message 44: by Nicole (last edited Jun 29, 2016 07:58AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nicole Power (nicolepower) | 28 comments Rosemarie wrote: "I have just started reading about Francie's vaccination and then about her school. How hard it was for poor children back then, because they were not given the same opportunity as those children wh..."

I really loved the thought process behind that incredibly rough scene. One of my favorite quotes in the book came about because of the nurse, being the kind of person that comes from hardship, but when grown, decides to forget rather than remember and help others also less fortunate: “They learned no compassion from their own anguish. Thus their suffering was wasted.”


Nicole Power (nicolepower) | 28 comments Rosemarie wrote: "Chapter 24 is all about the election and the ways used to get people to vote for a certain party. At that time women couldn't vote yet, only the men.
Johnny is very opinionated because he says, "Wo..."


I also found this part very interesting. If I remember correctly, didn't someone say that if their wife could vote they better vote the same as him? I imagine when women finally could vote in America, there was a lot of initial strife if opinions differed.


Nicole Power (nicolepower) | 28 comments Saphia210 wrote: I'm ashamed to say I gave up on Emma when I initially tried to read it a couple years back.
However, I've never given a book up quicker than The Maze Runner.


I agree with eKa, this book was very interesting and I honestly couldn't put it down. Betty Smith really has an amazing way with words.

I also found it more interesting than Emma... Saphia, I started Emma last year and I also put it aside. I was hoping this group would help motivate me to continue it. I found the Maze Runner a quick, mindless read, but the writing style made the character seem flat and uninteresting to me, and I never read the rest. The movies are actually really enjoyable though. The record for "book I've given up on the quickest" on would probably be 50 Shades. I think I make to 15-20 pages?


message 47: by Nicole (last edited Jun 29, 2016 08:24AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nicole Power (nicolepower) | 28 comments Rosemarie wrote: "I have just finished the chapter where she learns to read and finds a way to escape from her poverty and loneliness. Reading a page of Shakespeare and a page of the Bible a day gives Francie a very..."

I absolutely loved Francie's connection with books.

“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 became her friends and there was one for every mood. There was poetry for quiet companionship. There was adventure when she tired of quiet hours. There would be love stories when she came into adolescence and when she wanted to feel a closeness to someone she could read a biography.”

This is such a true quote. How can you feel lonely if you're in another world, with other people? I really loved Francie going to check out books and the librarian never noticing she was the same child that always came in. That made me laugh.


message 48: by Rosemarie, Moderator III/ from Canada / YA Classics (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 11277 comments Mod
Nicole,in response to your question about women voting, I think it was Francie's father. It is highly unlikely that would happen, since Katie certainly knows her own mind and has a good idea of what the real world is like. Some one needs to be practical, but it is making her hard. She says things to Francie that are so pessimistic. For example, on the first day of the summer holidays she tells that she will be back in school soon. Katie has no joy in life.


message 49: by Rosemarie, Moderator III/ from Canada / YA Classics (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 11277 comments Mod
I love the story of the horse and Aunt Evy. We all respond to kindness.


message 50: by Rosemarie, Moderator III/ from Canada / YA Classics (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 11277 comments Mod
Nicole, I was thinking about why the nurse acted that way during the scene. She was probably trying to deny where she came from. She thought she would be looked on as weak if she acted in a kinder way. The behavior of the doctor showed a complete lack of empathy and both were surprised when Francie answered them in English. The scene shows how divided the society was back then, and the lack of tolerance is shown in that horrible school.
Betty Smith shows a lot about the society of the time in a deceptively simple way.
Francie is a wonderful observer of the world.


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