The Giving Tree

Silverstein, Shel. The Giving Tree. Illustrated by Shel Silverstien. Harper and Row, 1964. 64 pages.

In Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, a young boy and a tree form a special bond that becomes strained through the years. In the beginning, when the boy is little, he spends time with the tree, swinging and climbing on its branches. However, as the boy grows up into a man, he visits the tree less often and only when he needs somethings. Each time, however, the tree asks the man to come and swing on its branches and the man declines harshly, saying he is too old. In the end, the man is elderly and comes to sit on the tree because he had taken away everything from it but its stump.

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The illustrations in the book are simple and drawn in pen. However, the illustrations clearly depict the emotion present in the text. The pictures, especially the tree are actually much larger than the page, so that only a portion of the tree is drawn in the book. Some of the illustrations seem to push the text away, emphasizing the relationship between the boy and the tree. Even though the illustrations are only in black and white, they still show the texture of the tree and the increasing age of the boy.

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“… and she loved a boy very, very much — even more than she loved herself.”

The Giving Tree exemplifies the type of relationship that can be shared by a loving parent and a child. In the beginning, when a child is young, they want to spend time with their parents all the time, much like the young boy did when he played on the tree all day. However, when a child grows up, they become preoccupied with other things going on their life and only see their parents when it is convenient for them. When the boy did visit the tree, all he did was complain about his life and ask for gifts from the tree. Much like a parent, the tree is understanding of the boy and seems to want only the best for him. The tree’s willingness to give so much of itself is representative of many parents. It is important for a child to read this book in order to avoid making some of the same mistakes the boy made and to realize how much their parent really cares for them.

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