[A Tree Grows in Brooklyn] is a first novel of uncommon skill, an almost uncontrollable vitality and zest for life, the work of a fresh, original and highly gifted talent. It is a story about life in the Williamsburg tenement district as lived by the Nolan family, particularly by Francie Nolan, aged one to nineteen in the course of the book—my favorite heroine for 1943….
The terrible misery, squalor, and grinding poverty of their lives are here in their unsavory detail. Miss Smith spares nothing. But she has the vision to know that loyalty and laughter and accomplishment and pride are also part of slum life, something too many writers forget; so A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a warm, sunny, engaging book as well as a grim one. It is also a rich and rare example of regional, local-color writing, filled to the scuppers with Brooklynese, Brooklyn folk ways, Brooklyn atmosphere. (p. vi)
Orville Prescott, "Outstanding Novels," in The Yale Review (© 1943 by Yale University; copyright renewed © 1971 by Yale University; reprinted by permission of the editors), Vol. XXXIII, No. 1, Autumn, 1943, pp. vi-xii.∗