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The Crosby Chronicles: You can’t judge a book by its copyright date

One of the pleasures of not working during the summer is that it allows me time to read more books.  Some teachers I know like to read books about education, which I do, too.  However, when I’m not working, I prefer to mentally shut it down, so I look for books having nothing to do with school.

I just finished Betty Smith’s “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” published in 1943.  I was familiar with the 1945 filmed version of the novel, so I was curious how similar it was to the original source material.

As is the case so often with movies based on books, the book is better than the movie.  What surprised me about the book was how starkly realistic it was in its depiction of children growing up in poverty.  Though the story dates to the turn of the last century, its themes and characters could easily be relevant today.  The film, probably due to censorship, barely touched upon these issues, and having recently seen it again, sentimentalizes the poverty of the main family.

Sometimes an old book reads like a modern one.  Here’s one film I wouldn’t mind seeing remade.


Brian Crosby is a teacher at Hoover High School and the author of Smart Kids, Bad Schools and The $100,000 Teacher.  He can be reached at