I recently read this book to my little boy It s not the first time I ve read it It s probably not even the tenth time But it s the first time I ve read the book in a decade, and given the fact that my memory is like a cheese grater, I like to think I got a pretty fresh experience The result is this I honestly don t know how I feel about this book Even if you haven t read the story, you probably know the gist of it A tree loves a young boy and gives away pieces of itself to the boy to make the boy happy On one hand, this story can be taken as an open, honest exhortation toward selfless Agape style love Love which asks nothing Love which gives everything On the other hand, this story can be read as a horrifying condemnation of dysfunctional unrequited co dependance After reading the book, I honestly don t know which it is On one hand, taking this book at face value is probably a fool s game Silverstein was a twisted sarcastic bastard He wrote lyrics for Dr Hook Most notably Freaking at the Freaker s Ball And back in my misspent youth, I discovered a poem of his in one of my Dad s Playboys It was called The Great Pot Smoke Off My point is, dude was part of the counterculture He was full of mocking and meta And as such, it seems odd that he would write something that seems like an obvious endorsement of Christ like selflessness and then that was it.But on the other hand, when Silverstein was having fun with you, he usually didn t pussyfoot around One of his earliest publications was Uncle Shelby s ABZ book Which looks like a kid s book, but is clearly not Here s a piece from the page on Potty Training See the pottyThe potty is deepThe potty has water in the bottom Maybe someone will fall into the potty and drown Don t worry As long as you keep wetting your pants, you will never drown in the potty Not a lot of ambiguity here His tongue is pretty clearly in his cheek But when I read through The Giving Tree, I don t see the author winking at me from behind the scenes The story seems to be straightforward But here s the thing, even if the story is straightforward, I don t know how I feel about it Is the boy selfish in the story Absolutely He s a little shit Yet he doesn t get one bit of comeuppance We kinda want him to, but that s not what happens The boy doesn t seem to learn a lesson And neither does the tree That seems to imply there is no lesson to be learned here Let s be clear The tree is happy at the end of the book There s no ambiguity about that It s entirely possible that the tree has acted in its own best interest It s entirely possible that the tree, if you ll forgive the expression, is acting according to the Lethani.Even after thinking it over for a couple days, still I don t know how I feel about it That s a rarity for me For that reason, I m giving this five stars If you write a book that leaves me asking questions If you write a book that people can have legitimate disagreements about If you write a book that people can still wrangle over after fifty years that s pretty clearly a five star book. Scrolling down, it seems several reviewers resent this book s apparently heavy handed message about selfishness selflessness I can totally understand why they find it upsetting or sappy Overbearing, even But I don t agree.Some fascinating theories have been put forth about The Giving Tree. It s deceptively simple on its surface, yes But if this were truly just some hard and fast hippie dippy morality tale, would its two main characters living natural tree, growing human boy and their relationship have weathered such extensive interpretation over the years Professor Timothy Jackson from Stanford University found on Wiki Is this a sad tale Well, it is sad in the same way that life is sad We are all needy, and, if we are lucky and any good, we grow old using others and getting used up Our finitude is not something to be regretted or despised, however it is what makes giving and receiving possible The you blame the boy, the you have to fault human existence The you blame the tree, the you have to fault the very idea of parenting Should the tree s giving be contingent on the boy s gratitude If it were, if fathers and mothers waited on reciprocity before caring for their young, then we would all be doomed.An admirable assessment from a theologian although as a wee grub, my perception was different My own folks, secular humanist scientists who taught me a recycle, reduce, reuse mantra at around age four, introduced me to The Giving Tree around the same time we started reading The Lorax Another seminal doozy Perhaps due to their influence on my early development, I came away from both books with a lot of very heavy, persistent questions concerning humanity s careless attitude towards ye olde Mother Earth Without question, we re a species that generally takes and takes from the environment, thanklessly and thoughtlessly Sadly this seems to be a trend that will continue until both we and the earth s resources are completely exhausted That is, unless we can all somehow convince ourselves AND our kids to turn it around Ever notice that throughout the course of the tale, the little boy just wants things from the tree Only at the very end of his life does he actually need something from her a place to rest for a moment, to be at peace Anyhoo Aspects of human behavior introduced to me in this book continue to flummox and obsess me in adulthood Rereading it now only reinforces my lifelong desire to give something back to our weary but still beautiful mother earth, who seems to have no choice but to submit to our endless taking.Silverstein fable is empathetic and open ended At its core, it reflects humanity s short sighted, often lifelong inability to distinguish want from need, but it does not damn us for it. I know that many people have a sentimental love for this book, and I respect that you can t rationalize emotional connection And generally, I like this author But with this book, since it inspired no real emotional response in me, I am left with only the rational perspective, which in me was this This book troubles me deeply, because it enshrines self destructive and self pitying martyrdom as the paragon of love for others And I think there is already far too much of this in our society This book seems to say that if you really love someone else, you will damage yourself, cripple yourself, tear down your boundaries, destroy yourself for them And further, it implies that those who are loved must by nature use and devour those who love them An incredibly unhealthy model for love and relationships, especially for a child s book I am a parent of two, and though many parents have offered up this book as representative of the true nature of parental love, I cannot agree If I were to raise my children this way, I feel I would only be teaching them to take selfishly from those who love them, to use people up and always expect and on the flip side, I would be teaching them that if they love someone then they have to give of themselves until it hurts, have to live without boundaries of any kind Instead of raising my kids this way, I feel it s important to teach them to respect those who love them and care for them, to not take from others so much that it damages I feel it s important to teach them that even in love we all must maintain our boundaries, our integrity I feel it s important that my kids, and all kids really, understand that real, healthy love does not demand destruction or diminishment of anyone involved in it, that in fact real and healthy love ultimately heals and builds up those who participate in it I suppose that this book may have been intended as an anti lesson, an example of how NOT to behave but if so, then it was not made clear that this was the case, because most people who read this book seem to take it as an ideal example of love Certainly it s possible to not take it so seriously but when the underlying message and philosophy is so concentrated and heavy handed, it s hard to avoid tasting it in every passage.It reminds me of that other beloved childhood book about love, where the young boy s mother is so obsessive about cuddling him and tucking him in at night that even as he gets older and older, she follows him around, sneaks into his college dorm, sneaks into his home as an adult, takes him from his bed with his wife still sleeping and reassures him herself that he ll always be my baby shudder Overall Sweet, but to the point of being cloying, and a disturbing message. Co dependent tree needs to set some fucking boundaries. Yes, the boy is a selfish bastard, who doesn t deserve the love and generosity he gets time and again Anyone who read this book as a child is well aware of this fact.Nonetheless, I m shocked to see how many disliked it My only thought is that many readers allow their hatred for the boy to be confused with hatred for the book Does the book condone the boy s behavior, or simply seek to tell a narrative Does the quality of a book suffer when the moral quality of its characters flags It is the job of narrative to relate a story It is the job of a classic to relate a timeless story, to which countless readers of any age can relate So whence the hatred Is it because so many readers have known people who have taken and taken with such unrelenting fervor that they then displace this hatred onto a book that merely tells a story so fundamental it can t help but arouse feelings in any human who reads it Silverstein, in my opinion, reached his peak with this book, so simple, and so pure, and timeless than any book I can think of at the moment. The Giving Tree, Shel SilversteinThe Giving Tree is a children s picture book written and illustrated by Shel Silverstein First published in 1964 by Harper Row, it has become one of Silverstein s best known titles and has been translated into numerous languages 2009 1383 55 9645599326 1388 1392 9789645599322 20 1385 36 9643891739 1387 9786009060184 1390 52 9786009241309 1392 58 9789647443784 1392 104 9789642862290 1393 44 9786002022622 1391 58 9786009453924. Once There Was A Treeand She Loved A Little Boy So Begins A Story Of Unforgettable Perception, Beautifully Written And Illustrated By The Gifted And Versatile Shel SilversteinEvery Day The Boy Would Come To The Tree To Eat Her Apples, Swing From Her Branches, Or Slide Down Her Trunkand The Tree Was Happy But As The Boy Grew Older He Began To Want From The Tree, And The Tree Gave And Gave And GaveThis Is A Tender Story, Touched With Sadness, Aglow With Consolation Shel Silverstein Has Created A Moving Parable For Readers Of All Ages That Offers An Affecting Interpretation Of The Gift Of Giving And A Serene Acceptance Of Another S Capacity To Love In Return Please visit our blog at www.twogalsandabook.com to see this and other reviews The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is a must read for children It s a story that can bring tears to your eyes Children can learn about the importance of caring, giving, and how we should treat others This essential and childhood favorite still remains a part of our home library 5 This book review is now available on my blog at So it is Christmas time, and my wife likes to have all of us my wife and I, and our three years old twins do a different event each night during Advent as a family I like this practice it is little things like this that keep our family strong Tonight s event was reading Christmas themed books.We decided to read THE GIVING TREE as well as three other Christmas books Had I foreseen what was about to transpire I would have omitted THE GIVING TREE from my selection.Allow me to replay said event The setting Mommy and Daddy s bed.After a torturous time of getting my kids to brush their teeth, put on their pajamas, and convinced that they should only bring two stuffed animals apiece to bed, I began to read the books The first book went well The kids laughed My wife and I smiled The second book was just as good as the first book More laughter More smiles Then it was time for THE GIVING TREE Now I ve read all of Shel Silverstein s books I find them quite enjoyable and zany and creative THE GIVING TREE was no different Or so I thought You see, I never really paid much attention to the story Well that s not entirely true I have always liked the message about giving when others are constantly taking And Christmas time is a perfect time to share this message But my son, Noah, interpreted the book differently As I read the book I focused on how the little boy grows into a man and loses his innocence of giving, taking on a selfish attitude My son saw the boy growing older When the tree gave everything but its stump to the boy as a man, I saw this as a generous message of charity Noah saw it as the man killing the tree But that s not all.An excerpt of the night Me The End That was a good story.Noah I didn t like it.Me Why The tree was very generous, and the man realized that he had only taken and never given back.Noah Staring blankly at me as if I had just finished reading him my bank statement Me What didn t you like about the story Noah The boy grows old and kills the tree and is now going to die.Me Inwardly SSSSSHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTTTTTTTT The death subject Me No, honey The tree gave its branches and trunk to the man Noah The boy killed the tree And now the boy is old and is going to die.Me No, buddy The tree just changed And the little boy lived a long life Noah And now he is going to die.Me FFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKK Inwardly, of course So having no other way to combat my son s determination to prove that the tree was murdered and that the little boy was now an old man and was going to die soon, I did what every father should do in this matter.Me Ask Mommy what she thinks, buddy.