I stumbled upon Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree at the library this week. Unbelievably, I had never read it despite countless bedtimes with my 2 boys.
I have to admit one of the reasons I picked it up was it’s apparent simplicity. Large pictures, few words, I thought it would be a good choice for my daughter who is only just really starting to pick up English. I wrote about our struggles in an earlier post here.
She was thoroughly engaged at first, enjoying the apparently loving relationship between boy and tree.
But then the boy grew up. The boy became absent, then selfish, self-absorbed. The tree offered the boy its apples, its branches, and eventually its trunk. The boy just took and took. My daughter’s interest turned to surprise and then shock. By the time I got to the last few pages, I was actually crying and could barely finish.
I felt a little better in the end, because apparently ‘the tree was happy’, although it was hard to imagine why or how. The tree had given the boy everything it had, and still he was miserable. The final picture of the old man sitting on the stump left me with a feeling of a terrible waste of life…
The message, whatever it was, was definitely over my daughter’s head, but it did generate good conversation about selfishness (boy) and complete UNselfishness (tree). The conclusion was that although being selfish was bad, *complete* UNselfishness left the tree in a bad state indeed. The love the tree had for the boy was also very obvious and something that touched my daughter very much.
It was a story that suprised us both, that she definitely enjoyed, and I know she’ll be asking for it again, if only to see Mummy tear up.
Have you read it? What did you think?