Back in 1964, Shel Silverstein wrote The Giving Tree, a widely loved children’s book written now translated into more than 30 languages. It’s a story about the human condition, about giving and receiving, using and getting used, neediness and greediness, although many finer points of the story are open to interpretation.
Update 2019: Adam Grant writes in The New York Times that “this book should be used as a starting point for conversations about healthy behavior and healthy relationships.”
Here’s a conversation you might consider having with your children after reading “The Giving Tree.” Imagine that the boy were not so selfish and the tree not so selfless.
Imagine that the boy hadn’t so quickly and completely discarded the apples, but rather, had planted their seeds.
Imagine the tree had not been reduced to a lonely stump, but had been surrounded by a whole forest of other trees.
Imagine a different ending where the boy, now grown, returned with his own children to visit the tree.
Imagine a new generation of children swinging from the branches and resting in its shade.
Part of the power of “The Giving Tree” is experiencing the passage of time. Imagine the kind of lesson that would be.
More on interpretations via Wikipedia:
The book has generated various opinions on how to interpret the relationship between the tree and the boy. Some possible interpretations include:
• The tree represents Mother Nature and the boy represents humanity.
• The tree and the boy are friends (i.e., “the message of the tale is seen as a relationship between adults”).
• The tree and the boy have a parent-child relationship.
What do you think the story is about?
Follow this classic with two others: The Hoarder (1969) by Evelyn Lambart and I will be a hummingbird, as told by Wangari Maathai.