Sunday, August 29, 2010

SLIS 5420 - Module 1 - The Giving Tree

Module 1 The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Silverstein, Shel. The Giving Tree. Harper Collins Publishers, 1964. ISBN 0-06-025665-6

The Giving Tree
by Shel Silverstein is a picture book that tells the story of a boy and his relationship to a very animated apple tree. The story starts out when the boy is very young and the tree is still very healthy. As the story progresses, the boy grows up and wants and takes more and more from the tree until the tree is used up. All throughout the story, the tree is happy despite the demands of giving placed upon her. The book can be read on many different levels and that is probably why it still remains a favorite among many people.

What I think about The Giving Tree
As a child, I enjoyed the story. I liked (and still like) the animated and loose drawings that Silverstein uses to illustrate the book. The drawings are absolutely perfect and speak volumes. On page 19, there is a great picture of the boy and the tree sharing a hug that is just beautiful. In fact, all of the fun illustrations of the boy in his childhood are playful and really speak of the joy of being young. As the boy grows older, though, his posture and unhappiness really show through in the drawings. We never see a true smile again until he is old and sitting with the now stump of a tree.

I find the story to be very sad overall. The sense of joy the boy feels is lost when he becomes a man. That seems wrong to me. Why would joy in life disappear as he gets older? In some ways, the responsibilities the man feels to make money and build a house are the cause of his distress. When the man needs nothing but love, he is happy. This happens when he is a boy and again when he is very old. One theme this story promotes is that when a person does not need anything, they are happiest. The boy does feel that way again until he is very old. That is why I find the book to be sad, because I feel that life is short and should always be joyful.

The fact that the tree gives and gives into the demands of the boy is also painful to watch. She grows smaller and smaller as she is used up by the boy and still she gives. As a child, I didn't understand why she wanted to be destroyed. As an adult, I understand the need to give, but I don't find it healthy to give until there is nothing left of yourself. This book could be a good starting point for discussing giving with children and whether or not love should be so demanding.

Outside reviews:
"The Giving Tree shares the story of a young boy and his lifetime relationship with a certain apple tree. But it is much more than that. It is also a story of giving (and taking or receiving), friendship, happiness, loyalty, sacrifice, gratitude, happiness, and most importantly—love.

The tree ultimately gives everything for the boy without receiving much in return. The theme or message of the book has been interpreted in many different ways. It can be very simply understood by a second grader, or an adult can search for a deeper meaning."

Brodie, C. (2009). The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein--A Forty-Five Year Celebration. School Library Monthly, 26(1), 22-24. Retrieved from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text database.

"The Giving Tree (1964) lauded on its inside cover as a "tender story" about "the gift of giving and a serene acceptance of another's capacity to love in return," generated much vehement anger from [college] students of both sexes for its utter exploitation of the woman (tree) by the man (the boy who allegedly "loves" her)."
Juchartz, L. (2003). Team teaching with Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein in the college basic reading classroom. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 47(4), 336-341. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.

Using this book in the library:
This is a great book to use in a book club or book discussion group with kids. It's an ice-breaker because the pictures are engaging and easy to talk about. Once past the pictures, kids can be encouraged to discuss how they interpret the story.

For Fun:
Check out these tattoos inspired by The Giving Tree:

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