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Up the Learning Tree School & Library Binding – September, 2003

4.9 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 2-4-Henry Bell walks young Master Simon to and from school every day. Education is forbidden to the Grismore slaves, but Henry seizes the opportunity to learn what he can anyway. He finishes his work early and rushes back to the schoolhouse, where he climbs a sycamore tree and eavesdrops on the lessons. The other children write their work on slates, but Henry uses the branches of his tree instead, carving letters and words into the bark. Simon's teacher notices Henry's efforts and risks everything to help him study, eventually losing her job and getting run out of town. But by then, Henry knows enough to continue his education on his own. Vaughan's text relates the child's bold, determined struggle to learn in spare but descriptive language. Blanks's dense, deep oil paintings subtly juxtapose the lush, green grass around the schoolhouse and in the leaves of Henry's tree against the hard, red clay around the Grismore plantation. This inspiring collaboration makes a solid contribution to most collections.
Catherine Threadgill, Charleston County Public Library, SC
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

K-Gr. 3. "Master Grismore says he'll take an ax to the finger of any slave who touches a book." Slave child Henry Bell risks serious punishment when he secretly learns to read and write, first by listening to white kids in the schoolhouse, and then with help from the young teacher, Miss Hattie. Even when Miss Hattie's "treachery" is discovered and she's driven away by angry plantation owners, Henry knows that he will secretly continue to learn because it will help him escape slavery. Both the words and the oil paintings are overblown, a fulsome simile on almost every page ("Hugging that book's like hugging hope"), but the focus on one brave child will bring listeners close to the cruel historical facts and the message about the power of literacy. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 and up
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten and up
  • Lexile Measure: 660L (What's this?)
  • School & Library Binding: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books (September 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1584300493
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584300496
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 8.2 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,071,586 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Up the Learning Tree is a beautifully illustrated work of historical fiction set in the pre-civil war south. A young slave boy repeatedly risks a severe punishment in his pursuit of literacy. This book is perfect when covering slavery or the importance of reading; a gift that if often under appreciated.
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Format: School & Library Binding
Up The Learning Tree is a picture book story ably written by Marcia Vaughan and set in the American South before the Civil War. In an era when black slaves were not allowed to read or write, one young boy burns with curiosity to know about the power hidden within books. His determination to learn in spite of the threatened punishment pushes him to make a remarkable discovery about himself, and to discover the highest kindness from others. Impressively illustrated by Derek Blanks, Up The Learning Tree is a very thoughtful story for young readers ages 4 to 8 with powerful underlying messages about history and personal drive.
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Format: Paperback
Young Henry Bell, who works as a slave on the Grismore plantation, desperately wants to learn how to read and write. Not only are slaves forbidden to attend school, they can also face severe punishment if caught trying to get an education. Courageously, Henry finds the opportunity to hide in a tree close to the local school every day, overhear the lessons, and carve the letters he learns about in the branches. Ultimately the teacher notices Henry, and she needs to decide if she will report Henry to the plantation owner, or defy a strict set of rules and help Henry to further his schooling.

This book's dramatic paintings and meaningful story make it an excellent vehicle for teaching younger children about the drudgery of slavery, racial inequality, and institutionalized discrimination in the historic South.
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Format: School & Library Binding
I love this book! It is so encouraging to young students, because it shows them the obstacles that so many people had to overcome in order to learn in the past. In addition to being a great piece of historical fiction, it let's today's children see that nothing should ever stand in their way of learning. This book is perfect as a read aloud story, and one that children 9 and up can read independently.

Up the Learning Tree tells the story of Henry and Ms. Hattie. Henry is determined to learn how to read, despite having a slave master who will chop off his finger if he's caught. Ms. Hattie is a teacher who moves to the south and does not believe "in slavery or in keeping people ignorant". The two work together at great personal risk. I cannot recommend this book enough!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although this is not written as a Christian book, I ordered it to use in our Vacation Bible School program... as the children's literature parallel to Zachaeus and the sycamore tree. The main character, Henry Bell, knows that learning to read is his key to freedom, and he refuses to be intimidated in his quest. His bravery is only matched by the devoted teacher who breaks the rules to help him succeed.

Henry's first-person narrative offers real insight to the life of a young slave in the United States. The artwork is strong. And the message will leave it's imprint in your heart. Great read!
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Format: School & Library Binding
Honestly - I've never read this book. My 7-year-old nephew, all lit up and enthused, told me the story after his 1st grade teacher read it to his class. He had been so impressed by the plot and characters that he was able (and eager) to tell me, in great detail, the entire story. A book having this much impact on a young child is a truly beautiful thing. He learned much about history, the importance of learning, and compassion.
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