Up the Learning Tree

By Marcia Vaughan
Illustrations by Derek Blanks

Marcia Vaughan

Marcia Vaughan wasn't always a writer. "I didn't decide to become a writer until I was nearly thirty years old!" says the author. "I was happily working as an elementary school librarian, reading lots of great books to the students. I always seemed to be changing the books I read aloud, making the short ones longer and the long ones shorter to hold the students' interest. Then one day it happened. I was reading Tikki Tikki Tembo to a second grade class, making some changes to the story, when KABAM! A voice in my head said 'Marcia, stop changing other peoples' books and write your own.' That's just what I did."

Up the Learning Tree is just one of eighty-one books Vaughan has written for children, and the second book she has published with LEE & LOW. The story takes place in the South, prior to the Civil War, and tells of an enslaved boy who makes friends with a white teacher as he secretly learns to read and write while hiding in a sycamore tree outside the schoolhouse. Vaughan says the idea for this book came to her when she was writing her first LEE & LOW title, Up the Learning Tree. "I read hundreds of slave narratives that made history come alive for me. I was stunned to learn the serious consequences slaves, young and old, faced if caught with reading or writing materials. Yet, despite the dangers, slaves came up with ingenious ways to learn. I knew I had to write about it." The author goes on to wonder, "What would happen if we told young people today that they were forbidden to learn to read and write, and they were being kept ignorant so that they'd be easy to control?"

Vaughan remarks that her favorite part of Up the Learning Tree is its main character, Henry Bell. "I admire his determination and courage," says Vaughan. "When Henry says 'I got it in my heart to learn and I got it in my head ain't nothing going to stop me,' he really means it!" Vaughan is currently working on a that takes place in the old Wild West. She lives in Vashon Island, Washington, with her husband and their son.

About This Title

Guided Reading:




Interest Level:

Grades 1 - 4

Reading Level:

Grades 2 - 3


United States History, Slavery, Sharing & Giving, Identity/Self Esteem/Confidence, Responsibility, Overcoming Obstacles, Mentors, History, Heroism, Friendship, Education, Dreams & Aspirations, Discrimination, Childhood Experiences and Memories, Bullying, African/African American Interest, Poverty, Empathy/Compassion, Integrity/Honesty , Leadership, Persistence/Grit, Respect/Citizenship, Self Control/Self Regulation, Pride


English Fiction Grades PreK-2, Appendix B Diverse Collection Grades 3-6, Historical Fiction Grades PreK-2, Early Fluent Dual Language, Black History Collection Grades K-2, High-Low Books for Preteens (Grades 4-6), African American English Collection Grades PreK-2, African American Collection English 6PK, English Guided Reading Level R, Fluent English

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