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Up the Learning Tree

Up the Learning Tree (pb)

By Marcia Vaughan

Illustrated by Derek Blanks


Henry Bell is not allowed to learn to read and write. In fact, most enslaved children, like him, are severely punished if they are even caught with a book. But Henry is curious. He suspects there is something powerful in books, and he wants to know what it is.

One day Henry finishes his chores quickly, then runs to the schoolhouse. He hides in a sycamore tree just as the teacher begins reading a story. His heart pounds as he listens with astonishment, and right then he makes up his mind to learn to read. Henry's fierce determination and bravery in the face of serious consequences lead him to a special friendship, and a journey of discovery that changes his life forever.

Set in the pre-Civil War South, Up the Learning Tree is a story of hope and humanity during difficult times, and a poignant reminder that the freedom to learn should never be taken for granted.

Marcia Vaughan was inspired to write Up the Learning Tree after reading Civil War-era oral histories of former enslaved people, many of whom risked their lives to learn to read and write.

Booktalk with author Marcia Vaughan

Teacher's Guide

2006-07 South Carolina Children's Book Award Nominee
South Carolina Association of School Libraries

Storytelling World Honor Award
Stories for Young Listeners
Storytelling World

Best Children's Books of the Year
Bank Street College of Education

Best Picture Book Honor
Society of School Librarians International

Myers Outstanding Book Award
Honorable Mention
Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America

Interest Level
Grades 1 - 4
Reading Level
Grades 2 - 3
African/African American Interest, Education, Historical Interest, Sharing & Giving, Slavery
Accelerated Reader
Level: 3.4
Points: .5
About the Creators

Marcia Vaughan is an award-winning author of numerous books for children, including Snap!, a Junior Library Guild Selection, Whistling Dixie, an ALA Notable book, and The Secret to Freedom, a Teachers' Choices Award winner published by LEE & LOW BOOKS. A full-time author, Vaughan is a popular speaker at national and regional conferences. She lives in Vashon Island, Washington, with her husband and their son.

Derek Blanks received his B.F.A. degree from the Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore. He has served as a painter and freelance illustrator for galleries, museums, and art publications, and he currently works as a graphic artist and photographer. A native of Mississippi, Blanks now lives in College Park, Georgia, with his wife. This is his first picture book. To find out more about Derek Blanks, visit dblanks.com

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