Henry Bell is not allowed to learn to read and write. In fact, most enslaved children, like him, are severely punished if they are even caught with a book. But Henry is curious. He suspects there is something powerful in books, and he wants to know what it is.One day Henry finishes his chores quickly, then runs to the schoolhouse. He hides in a sycamore tree just as the teacher begins reading a story. His heart pounds as he listens with astonishment, and right then he makes up his mind to learn to read. Henry's fierce determination and bravery in the face of serious consequences lead him to a special friendship, and a journey of discovery that changes his life forever.Set in the pre-Civil War South, Up the Learning Tree is a story of hope and humanity during difficult times, and a poignant reminder that the freedom to learn should never be taken for granted.Marcia Vaughan was inspired to write Up the Learning Tree after reading Civil War-era oral histories of former enslaved people, many of whom risked their lives to learn to read and write.