Study Guide

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Chapter 17

By Betty Smith

Chapter 17

  • It's time for piano lessons, guys, and Katie calls a teacher who lives downstairs and barters her cleaning services for lessons. Katie directs the children to stay in the room and keep their eyes and ears open while she gets the lesson.
  • Miss Lizzie Tynmore dresses formally and arrives right on time for the lesson from her apartment downstairs.
  • She brings all sorts of neat stuff like an alarm clock (to keep track of how long the lesson lasts) and a metronome (to keep track of the beat).
  • When the lesson is over, Katie praises Miss Tynmore for being such a good teacher, and Miss Tynmore tells Katie that she isn’t fooling her by having the children in the room, but she won’t charge her extra for it.
  • She waits around awkwardly, and Katie doesn’t get why she isn’t leaving. Turns out, it is expected that she is offered a cup of tea after giving a lesson.
  • While Mama prepares a snack, Miss Tynmore asks Francie what she thinks about during those long hours when she sits on the curb.
  • Francie tells her she is just telling herself stories, and Miss Tynmore tells Francie she will be a storywriter when she grows up
  • Katie arrives with the coffee and bun, which Miss Tynmore tries hard not to wolf down.
  • You see, the Tynmore sisters live only on what they are given after lessons since they don’t earn enough money giving lessons to do much more than pay their rent.
  • After Miss Tynmore leaves, Katie teaches the children what she learns after each lesson; eventually, they all can play the piano pretty well.
  • Johnny hears that Miss Maggie Tynmore gives voice lessons and tries to arrange to do some handyman work in exchange for lessons for Francie. He really botches up a job for them though, so needless to say, Francie doesn’t end up getting any voice lessons.