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MonkeyNotes-A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

BOOK I

Chapter 1

Summary

Francie Nolan is a young girl of ten when the novel opens. She lives with her family in a small, shabby house, located in Williamsburg, a poor section of Brooklyn, New York. Outside Francie's house is a tree that many people call "the tree of heaven." No matter where the seeds from this tree fall, they become small plants, which struggle to grow into big trees. During the course of the novel, Francie will be compared to this special tree.

For Francie and her brother, Neeley, life is not easy, for the family has no money for any extras or treats. Like other kids in Williamsburg, Francie and Neeley regularly scour through the garbage, searching for bits of metal, rubber, rags, and other junk. On Saturdays, they take their collection to Carney's Junk Shop and sell it for a few pennies. Carney usually gives Francie an extra penny if she allows him to pinch her hard on the cheek. With pennies in hand, Francie and Neeley normally go to Cheap Charlie's Shop or to Gimpy's Candy Store in order to spend their earnings. At Gimpy's, Francie usually chooses five cents worth of pink and white peppermint wafers. At home, the children are encouraged by their mother, Katie Nolan, to save their earnings by putting it in a tin-can bank.


Francie is a helper at home. In this opening chapter, her mother sends her to the store to buy bread, sugar, and other groceries. When Francie returns, the family sits down to eat without their father, Johnny, who has not returned. Although the children are often served coffee, they seldom drink it and often throw it away. Katie's sisters, Sissy and Evy, consider this to be a sinful waste.

Later in the chapter, Francie is again dispatched to buy some bread from the outlet store, which sells stale loaves at half-price. As Francie waits for the store to open, she notices an old man sitting outside in frayed clothes. She plays her favorite game of imagining him first as a baby, then a toddler, then a young man, eventually as a father, and finally as he is now. As she watches the old man, she suddenly has a panic attack, for she realizes that some day she will become old like him. Feeling anxious, Francie is glad to see the bread truck arrive. When the store opens, she dashes inside, buys the bread, and runs home.

Back at home, Francie follows Neeley outside, for she knows he is going to play baseball with his friends. The boys allow her to join the game, which is played furiously with much sweating and punching. Francie stops playing around two o'clock, for she wants to go to the library, where she visits almost everyday.

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MonkeyNotes-A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
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