A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, first published in 1964, is a sensitive parable that really hits an emotional button -- readers seem to either love it or hate it. Some see the tree's selfless love of a boy as beautiful, even if it's taken to an extreme. It's easy to imagine the tree as a mature, patient mother dependably being there for her child throughout his life. But the tree can also be seen as a masochistic female who doesn't know how to set limits. Some might even read this as a warning about greedily using Mother Nature's resources. In any case, its an enduring classic that readers of all ages respond to.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
THE GIVING TREE is a fable about giving (not always wisely, but deeply) and taking (often without thought but almost always with profound consequences). It follows the relationship of a boy and a tree, from the boy's childhood through old age. This is deservedly one of the bestselling children's books of all time. Both the text and the line drawings are like haiku in their potent simplicity.
Is it any good?
This fable's spare text and the expressive line drawings add to the beauty and solemnity of this story and focus its power. Author Shel Silverstein gives a thoughtful look at the cycle of life of the boy and challenges readers of all ages to think about how they sometimes take loved ones for granted. Many images will give readers an ache in their heart: the boy embracing the tree with his chubby arms, the adolescent leaning against the sheltering tree lost in thought. The tree, too, goes through stages: from leafy to ripe with fruit to branchless and, finally, to just a stump. Readers may find it truly moving or kind of sad. Little kids tend to find it a comforting model of unconditional love.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the message the author might be trying to send readers. Do you think it's a good one? Why or why not?
Do you think the boy asks too much? Do you think the boy takes the tree for granted? Would you have behaved differently than the boy did?
Why do you think this book has been popular for so many years?
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