The Giving Tree

Book Cover: The Giving Tree
Part of the Classic series:
  • The Giving Tree

The Giving Tree, a story of unforgettable perception, beautifully written and illustrated by the gifted and versatile Shel Silverstein, has been a classic favorite for generations.

Since it was first published fifty years ago, Shel Silverstein's poignant picture book for readers of all ages has offered a touching interpretation of the gift of giving and a serene acceptance of another's capacity to love in return.

Shel Silverstein's incomparable career as a bestselling children's book author and illustrator began with Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back. He is also the creator of picture books including A Giraffe and a Half, Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros?, The Missing Piece, The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, and the perennial favorite The Giving Tree, and of classic poetry collections such as Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, Falling Up, Every Thing On It, Don't Bump the Glump!, and Runny Babbit.

And don't miss Runny Babbit Returns, the new book from Shel Silverstein!

Product details

  • Hardcover: 64 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1 edition (Feb. 18 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060256656
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060256654
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 1 x 25.4 cm

About the Author

Shel Silverstein 's incomparable career as a bestselling children's book author and illustrator began with Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back. He is also the creator of picture books including A Giraffe and a Half, Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros?, The Missing Piece, The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, and the perennial favorite The Giving Tree, as well as classic poetry collections such as Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, Every Thing On It, Don't Bump the Glump!, and Runny Babbit.

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Excerpt:

If you’re looking for a children’s book that teaches generosity or unselfishness, most people will point you right to The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein’s lovely story of a tree that will do anything for the boy it loves—and for good reason. This classic is always a good place to start. (Brightly)


From the Back Cover

"Once there was a tree . . . and she loved a little boy." So begins a story of unforgettable perception, beautifully written and illustrated by the gifted and versatile Shel Silverstein.

Every day the boy would come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches, or slide down her trunk . . . and the tree was happy. But as the boy grew older, he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave.

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Since it was first published fifty years ago, Shel Silverstein's moving parable for readers of all ages has offered an affecting interpretation of the gift of giving and a serene acceptance of another's capacity to love in return.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Karin Snelson on amazon wrote:

To say that this particular apple tree is a "giving tree" is an understatement. In Shel Silverstein's popular tale of few words and simple line drawings, a tree starts out as a leafy playground, shade provider, and apple bearer for a rambunctious little boy. Making the boy happy makes the tree happy, but with time it becomes more challenging for the generous tree to meet his needs. When he asks for money, she suggests that he sell her apples. When he asks for a house, she offers her branches for lumber. When the boy is old, too old and sad to play in the tree, he asks the tree for a boat. She suggests that he cut her down to a stump so he can craft a boat out of her trunk. He unthinkingly does it. At this point in the story, the double-page spread shows a pathetic solitary stump, poignantly cut down to the heart the boy once carved into the tree as a child that said "M.E. + T." "And then the tree was happy... but not really." When there's nothing left of her, the boy returns again as an old man, needing a quiet place to sit and rest. The stump offers up her services, and he sits on it. "And the tree was happy." While the message of this book is unclear (Take and take and take? Give and give and give? Complete self-sacrifice is good? Complete self-sacrifice is infinitely sad?), Silverstein has perhaps deliberately left the book open to interpretation. (All ages)

Skylar Burris on skylarb.com wrote:

I was drawn to this book again and again as a child, and I discovered that my (then) three-year-old daughter also wanted me to read it to her repeatedly. The book has given rise to numerous interpretations, and I myself have viewed it differently over time. Some people have a negative, visceral reaction to the book because they believe they are required to see it as a positive and uplifting tale of giving, something they cannot manage to do.

These days, we are accustomed to sanitized, upbeat children's tales, but great children's literature has not always spared children the horrors of the world, and it has not always clearly stated its morals; more often, the morals are implied and are absorbed emotionally through the reading. We must not forget that Shel Silverstein was a biting satirist (consider such poems as "Almost Perfect But Not Quite.") It's just like Shel Silverstein to take the guise of a gentle little children's story to skewer the faults of humanity. Yes, "The Giving Tree" is a very disturbing book, but perhaps it's disturbing because it's meant to be.

Many Christians (including myself initially) have thought of this as an allegory for Christ's sacrifice. I can certainly see why people think this is a Christian allegory: the tree, like Christ, gives itself entirely for the boy, even to the point of abject humiliation. If it is a Christian allegory, however, it is the disturbing tale of Christ's terrible, painful, continuous rejection by man, and not the heart-warming tale of unconditional love and forgiveness many Christians take it to be. There is no repentance in "The Giving Tree," and therefore no real forgiveness.

Some take it as a tale of unconditional parental love, but if it is, it is again a painful tale: a tale of the child who never, his entire life, truly learns to appreciate his parents.

Environmentalist read it as a tale of man's selfish exploitation of nature.

Feminists regard it as a story of man's subjugation and abuse of woman and woman's failure to stand up for herself (the tree is a "she").

The fact that the book can speak to so many people on so many different levels is, I think, evidence of its subtlety and irony. It really can work on more than one level, if you want it to. But we err, I think, if we assume this is a "sweet" and positive tale. It is sad, but this is almost cathartic, because life, too, is sad.

Few readers come to this book expecting the reality and complexity and vaguely drawn morals we get from the harsh Greek myths and the stark Bible stories and the creepy old fairy tales, which were the staples of past generations. Today we expect to encounter cleaned-up, upbeat, didactic stories where everyone learns his lesson: learns how to share or to tolerate or to be nice, a simplicity that is typical of so much children's literature today. But life does not always order itself according to neat story lines in which the bad guys suddenly become good by the third act.

Children's literature such as The Giving Tree plays a valuable role by helping children (and even the parents who read it to their children) to wrestle with the ugly, beautiful, and complex truths of the world. It helps children to begin processing, very early on, the powerful and often disturbing visceral emotions these truths awake.


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