Up the Learning Tree

By Marcia Vaughan
Illustrated by Derek Blanks

Paperback: $11.95

Hardcover: out of stock


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.

About the Creators

Thumb_thumb Marcia Vaughan - Author

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 family.

Thumb_thumb 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 who has done campaigns and cover shoots for CoverGirl, ESSENCE, BET Networks, and Sony Music Entertainment, among others. To find out more about Derek Blanks, visit