Book Review: The Education of Little Tree

The Education of Little Tree by Forrest CarterI’m kinda surprised I didn’t find The Education of Little Tree before, as it’s right up my alley. It is the autobiography of Forrest Carter, who grew up in the 1930’s living with his Cherokee grandparents in the Appalachian Mountains. He talks a lot about learning “the way” of the Cherokee and learning to live in peace with the land. They certainly didn’t have an easy life but they sounded truly happy to be living off the land in an isolated mountain valley full of deer, wild turkeys, and beautiful sunsets.

Probably my favorite part of the book was the folk wisdom, which was doled out from all the different characters. I think my favorite lesson was from Mr. Wise, a Jewish tinkerer who traveled around the mountains fixing clocks and selling bobbins of thread.

He said if you was thrifty, you used your money for what you had ought but you was not loose with it. Mr. Wine said that one habit led to another habit, and if they was loose with your money, then you would get loose with your time, loose with your thinking and practical everything else. If a whole people got loose, then politicians seen they could get control. They would take over loose people and before long you had a dictator. Mr. Wine said no thrifty people was ever taken over by a dictator. Which is right.

I highly recommend the book as a comfort read, a reconnection with nature, and an inspirational tale of the simple life. I will warn you, however, that there are some very sad bits. I’ve moved past the trauma I experienced as a young child reading “Where the Red Fern Goes” but there were a few parts in the book that brought me to tears. I guess that’s part of life and it’s silly to ignore it. this!

4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Linnea said,

    April 15, 2008 @ 10:19 pm

    We read that in elementary school. I really liked it, until I read the part with the bird and the poison. That was a little unsettling for a nine-year-old.

  2. 2

    cinco said,

    April 16, 2008 @ 12:42 am

    I remember reading it and liking it as a child, but it is NOT a true story. It is an extremely fake story, and it was written by a crazy segregationist klansman.

    Bummer, isn’t it?

  3. 3

    Maggie said,

    April 16, 2008 @ 2:40 am

    Huh. I knew it was highly romanticized and definitely doubted anyone could remember any sort of details from his childhood but I didn’t realize it was a complete work of fiction.

    It does raise some interesting issues about whether or not a person should recommend a book that was written by a terribly racist person who deliberately misled his readers to believe he had been raised as a Native American. I have mixed feelings but think that I would still recommend the book on its own merits.

    And I also read a few comments complaining about it’s “simplistic plot” and “stereotypical imagery” but when it’s such moving imagery and a plot that revolves around a 5-year-old, those both seem pretty reasonable sins to me.

    But it should totally be marketed as fiction. Are there not laws about that? I guess I assume things are as they are presented in the literary world, even if I’m skeptical about labels on food.

    Darn, is there nothing to trust anymore? (I’m mostly kidding.)

  4. 4

    equa yona said,

    April 16, 2008 @ 11:22 pm

    Where is your copy of THE EDUCATION OF LITTLE TREE?

    [Edited by Will to link to the blog entry rather than reproducing the text here]

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