A Book Grows on Me

Betty Smith is actually one of the most strikingly beautiful women I’ve ever seen. 


Daily Prompt: What was your favorite book as a child? Did it influence the person you are now?

So, I suppose that you could say that I’m still a child. Does 16 constitute being a child? Is being a teenager mutually exclusive with being a child? Who knows.

When I was in middle school, I read a book series called, “The Wedding Planner’s Daughter.” It takes place in the twenty first century, and follows the adolescent life of a girl who loves reading. The greatest part about the series was not that actual story, but the fact that the author provided a list of suggested reads at the end of the book. After I finished the book, I skimmed the reading list for a title that caught my eye.


“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith 


Isn’t the title at least a little bit intriguing? Not many people agree with me, but I personally became very interested with title. What kind of tree, and what’s so special about Brooklyn? Perhaps that wasn’t my train of thought. Maybe I just asked a friend or did a quick Google search for a summary.

Either way, I ended up reading the book in seventh grade or so. At the time I just really liked the book simply because it had a wonderful story. And that was it, for the time being.

But then as the years went by and my English teachers taught me year-after-year about literature analysis, symbolism, and motifs, I realized that there was no doubt more to the story.

I checked it out again sometime in high school. Ninth grade, perhaps? Eventually I had checked it out enough times for me to decide that I needed an actual copy.

And you know how people operate. You go to new events and they need icebreaker games to introduce themselves, and one of the most commonly asked questions is: “What’s your favorite book?”

In those days, I’d probably say something like the Harry Potter series or some book that I had recently read. While HP and plenty of other books were fantastic, the one that kept coming back to me and calling to me personally was “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.”

So now, I don’t even hesitate when people ask me for my favorite book. I recall childhood memories of hiding under the covers with a flashlight trying to finish this book. Yes, these things actually do happen!

Since learning about literary analysis and the once-alien concept of “annotation,” my favorite book has become all the more personal, filled with markings indicating my favorite passages, with arrows and lines, with explanations of why a certain passage is important.

I also just learned about World War One in my AP Euro class. Although I knew generally what had happened, I hadn’t known the exact position of the United States, but now all of that has been much more contextualized for me. And it helps! I am able to more easily relate with the sentiments of the families who had to send their men to war.


A quick summary: The book plays out in many flashbacks, covering the background story of Frances Nolan’s parents, following Francie through her childhood, all the way to her first year at college. She is born right around the turn of the twentieth century, and as a young lady she sees the indirect effects of World War One on the people that live in her city.

^That summary does not even suffice; I heavily recommend that any girl under 21 who has the ability to read, read this book.

They say that one of the best ways to understand a person as well as their morals and priorities is to read their favorite book. This book touches me because Francie’s character exemplifies how I would like to approach my problems, and the society that I grow up in. Since she first went to school, she’d wanted to be a writer.  Her family was comprised of immigrants, and they had endured many hardships and economic struggles to rise out of the poverty that they had continually been confined to. The story follows her from her childhood to the beginning of her adulthood, and depicts changes in perspectives as she becomes continually more mature, and gets increasingly globalized in perspective. These changes build character. I take her personal revelations in consideration, accepting my ultimately infinitesimal role in society. Francie expressed a strong interest in writing, and the method that Betty Smith utilizes to explain why help spark my interest in literature as well. The lessons that I take from the book guide the way I deal with overarching problems.



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  3. gmaj1939

    Me who loves books and reading has never read this book…I saw the movie a very long time ago…As this
    young lady has pointed out so well….it sounds like an awesome book that i must read right away…
    Thank you young lady…keep writing.


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  9. Gail

    I love A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It was one of my mother’s favorite books and I recall her telling her three daughters that we all should read it. I still can see her hardback copy sitting on the book shelf. Unfortunately, I didn’t read it until I was in my 40s, and then again a few years later in the book club I was in. I’m sure at some point, I will read it again.


    • catdiggedydog

      In my personal experience, I use it as a book of lessons and inspirations about the way that I want to lead out my life, with humility and gratefulness. However, even if you are older, I think it still has a large amount of value that makes it worth reading :) I’m so glad you enjoyed the book. Your mother has a great taste in literature! You should definitely read it again; I find that I take away new reflections and realizations everytime I read it.


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  12. Kenton Lewis

    Wow! I almost forgot about that book. I recall reading it. A great book. That is the first photo I’ve seen of Smith. Actually thought of her as some librarian type.


    • catdiggedydog

      Me too! Probably just generalizing about the name Betty Smith. It sounds somewhat mundane and generic, right? I’m glad you like the book; you should definitely consider re-reading it!


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