Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"


Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

From her fire escape, shaded by a tree growing through the sidewalk below, Francie Nolan observes and writes about Brooklyn in the early 1900s. Readers walk with Francie through her impoverished childhood and develop an intimate knowledge of the colorful characters and scenes that contribute to her early experiences. Johnny, Francie's singing waiter father, loves to dream; her mother Katie, by contrast, serves as the family's pillar of strength, practicality and security. As Francie grows, she overcomes adversity and thrives by incorporating attributes of both parents.

Christian Beliefs

In Francie's community, obvious animosity exists between Catholics and Jews. Francie's people are Catholic; most go to Mass out of habit or to be absolved of the things they did the night before. Katie enlists God's help when she's pregnant and desperate, explaining to Him that she needs Him when she's “not the boss of her own mind and body,” but she doesn't need Him otherwise. Francie questions her belief in God related to her father's death but indicates at the end of the story that she's gotten to know God better.

Other Belief Systems

Katie's “intensely religious” Catholic mother also believes in ghosts and fairies. The author talks about the qualities that “God or whatever is his equivalent” puts in each soul. Katie becomes pregnant while Francie is still small and sickly; she condemns the comments of some neighbors who say it would be better if Francie died or that Katie should “get rid of” the baby inside of her. The story's strong feminist theme is also illustrated in quotes like this one: While hearing Katie scream during childbirth, a neighbor lady says, “Men have all the fun, and women have all the pain.” Most of the male characters appear thoughtless or clueless, and the story's women demonstrate strength and resilience in the face of hardship.

Authority Roles

Although Johnny is a proud, jovial father, he rarely works, often comes home drunk and demonstrates little responsibility for his family's welfare. To compensate, Katie works tirelessly to make a better life for her kids; the author tells us Katie has traded tenderness for capability and survival. She believes education will rescue her children from their plight, so she saves every penny she can scrape together for their schooling and has the kids read a page from the Bible and from a work of Shakespeare each night. Unlike other neighborhood parents mentioned, she discusses sex and body changes frankly with her children. Katie's mother believes her husband is literally the Devil.


The Brooklyn folks do their share of cursing, using the Lord's name in vain and words such as b--tard, b--ch, h--- and a--. The author comments that to these "inarticulate people with small vocabularies," sometimes cursing was really the same as saying, "God bless you." Descriptive language also appears when a mother weans her son by drawing a scary face on her breast. A neighborhood pervert attacks Francie in the hallway of her building, touching her with his private parts before Katie shoots and kills him. Also, the married women of the neighborhood stone a single mother.


As Francie and children her age start becoming interested in sex, the author says parents in the neighborhood don't know how to answer their kids' questions. They have simply made up their own names for things within their marriages. Sissy, Francie's promiscuous aunt, comforts Johnny in a "maternal" way by offering him alcohol and letting him sleep on her bare breasts. Sissy is also a bigamist, having been married a number of times without getting a proper divorce because it's forbidden in the Catholic Church. Francie, at 16, considers going to a motel with a soldier she loves, who is 22, but she doesn't. Later, she and her mother regret that decision. Her mother believes that Francie will never have those feelings for anyone else.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

13 and up


Betty Smith






Record Label



HarperCollins Publishers


On Video

Year Published



Published in 1943, New York Public Library Books of the Century


We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!