Week 1: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Book summary: A boy came. He asked for stuff. He got stuff. He went away again. And so on, until the tree had nothing left to give.

My Impressions: When we were assigned this book as part of a list to choose from, it was listed under “books adults like that aren’t necessarily good books”. Having been a Shel Silverstein fan as a kid, I immediately got my dander up – how could anything the great master wrote not be a good book? But then, I didn’t really remember reading it as a kid. Now maybe I know why. Now maybe I understand that this book isn’t great.

If you’re like me, you probably either loved or despised your teachers in elementary school (I actually pretty much loved all of mine, but there were one or two exceptions). So if I read this book, it was likely to please a teacher I loved, and if she thought it was great, I probably did, too. I probably thought to myself – yes, we should all be giving trees! And I’m not here now, saying that isn’t a good message. But the fact is, the boy never learns anything about gratitude. He never learns to appreciate the sacrifices the tree makes for him. He never says “thank you” or “can I do something for you”. I do hope we all learn the message of unconditional love, and that we still give without expectation of gratitude. Maybe the book isn’t horrible. Maybe it’s just too subtle.

Citation: Silverstein, S. (1992). The Giving Tree. New York: HarperCollinsPublishers.

Professional Review:

“…This popular classic of modern children’s literature was first published in 1963 and has been embraced both by children and adults. It has just been released with a CD narration of the story by Shel Silverstein. This parable teaches lessons on love and acceptance, is simply told. It is illustrated with black and white line drawings and a straightforward text describing how a little boy comes to visit the “giving tree” every day. The tree gives the boy everything from its apples to a place to swing and slide. As the boy grows up, he demands more and more from the tree until finally the treeseems to have nothing left to give. At the end, the boy is an old man and returns to the tree and finds that the tree provides him with one more thing. The CD operates well, but the recording is not perfectly clear as Mr. Silverstein is close to the microphone at times. But children will love hearing his tender and soulful voice and the melodious harmonica background music. The recording is close to six minutes long and fits into a pocket inside the back cover. The book’s theme of love and the cycle of life will resonate with adults and will provide many discussion points when shared with children. Highly Recommended. Rating: **** /4. Preschool-grade 3. 1992 (orig. 1964), HarperCollins, 64pp. (includes CD), cloth, $26.99. Ages 4 to 8…”

Douglas, L. (2004, June 18). [Review of The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein].  CM Magazine, (Vol. X, No. 21). Retrieved from Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database, http://libproxy.library.unt.edu:2378/cgi-bin/member/search/f?./temp/~ay6StC:6

Library uses: I could see having this book on display at Thanksgiving, and using it during story time to highlight what is lacking in the boy – gratitude.

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