Jan 13, 2008

The Giving Tree

by Shel Silverstein

My three year old has just discovered the Shel Silverstein books on our bookshelf, so I have read The Giving Tree to her about ten times in the last six days, and its been on my mind. It is a simple story about the friendship between a tree and a boy. At first the boy comes to the tree to play and eat her apples. As he gets older, he has different desires and takes her fruit, branches, etc to use for things. In the end, the boy is old and the tree is just a stump. When I was younger, I thought this was a beautiful story about selfless, unconditional love like that of the Christ story or a mother for her child, always giving and never needing anything more than love in return. Now I'm not so sure; reading it again as an adult it makes me pause. It could also be seen as a one-sided, almost abusive relationship; the boy takes everything and what does he do for the tree? Why does she have to say she's sorry she has no more apples or branches? He took them all away! It makes me feel kind of sad; but I guess that's how life is sometimes. Love isn't always evenly reciprocated; sometimes it's sad, and sometimes there's peace in the end anyways.

Rating: 3/5                64 pages, 1964


  1. Interesting thoughts on this book. I haven't read it, but when I read your synopsis, I first thought that the boy had killed the tree because he was taking so much. I'd be interested in reading it and seeing if I come to the same conclusion. It seems a bit cynical, but with the way the world is these days and how we are always being told we are killing the earth, perhaps this is the conclusion we now jump to first?

  2. I think you are right. In the wikipedia article on this book, one interpretation mentioned is that the tree represents the earth, which we are taking and taking from until nothing will be left.

  3. Anonymous1/14/2008

    I haven't read this in years, but now you've made me want to dig my copy out and re-read it. I've always held your initial view - that it was a story of self-lessness and generosity. But, I can see how this new theme fits as well.

    My book was gift from a group of my students some years ago- sometimes they do take a lot from the teacher (but I usually find the rewards are worth it!)

  4. It's funny how opinions and thoughts can change as we get older. I read this book SO long ago that I was having a tough time remembering what happened until reading your review. His poetry is fun, though, as I remember.


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