Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Forrest Carter’s The Education of Little Tree begins in the winter of 1930, when Little Tree is orphaned at the age of five and goes to live with Granma and Granpa Wales in the mountains near Chattanooga, Tennessee. The chapters are largely episodic, with more emphasis on the daily lives of Granma, Granpa, and Little Tree than on narrative movement and action, though humor and excitement abound. The grandparents are depicted as loving and nurturing guardians who are sensitive to the needs of their five-year-old charge.

As the title promises, the focus of the book is on the education of Little Tree—his formal education and his introduction to “The Way” of the Cherokee. Although Granpa was illiterate, on winter evenings Granma read aloud such classics as William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (15991600) and Macbeth (16051606) and Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (17761788). In addition, each week Little Tree learned five new words from the dictionary, making up sentences with the words and working his way through the alphabet. Mr. Wine, a Jewish peddler, helped him with math. In these ways, his grandparents took great care with his formal education. More important, however, was his instruction in “The Way” of the Cherokee, which became the core of Little Tree’s schooling—Cherokee history, philosophy, and life.

Little Tree’s first year in the mountains...

(The entire section is 462 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The reader begins to feel as if s/he knows the mountain trails, the seasons, the cabin, the Spring Branch, the tiny field of corn, and the...

(The entire section is 327 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The voice of Little Tree drives the story. Carter's use of first person narration gives the novel a personal, almost journalistic quality. As...

(The entire section is 572 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The Education of Little Tree spends a good deal of time reflecting on the question of man's place in the world. This cannot be...

(The entire section is 464 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Why do you feel it is necessary to find your place in the world? How do you think people discover their place?

2. Why does...

(The entire section is 136 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Research the history of the Cherokee Indians. How are their beliefs different from your own?

2. Why were Native Americans...

(The entire section is 117 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Paramount Pictures released a film version of The Education of Little Tree in 1997. Earl Richard Friedenberg adapted and directed the...

(The entire section is 238 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Bruchac, Joseph. Review of The Education of Little Tree. Parabola, vol. 14, no. 2 (May 1989): 108-109, 112. Bruchac's review praises...

(The entire section is 243 words.)