The Giving Tree Book Review

Silverstein, Shel. The Giving Tree. Harper & Row, 1964. 64 pages.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is a book that really makes people take a good look at their lives. In the story, there is a young boy and a tree. The young boy spends all of his time with the tree and they become very close. They value each other simply because they spend time together and bond. As the boy grows up, however, he starts to like different things and doesn’t come to visit the tree as much. The tree eventually becomes sad and lonely and misses the boy dearly. The boy becomes a man and visits the tree, but only to ask the tree for something he can build a house with. The tree cannot offer money, but instead offers all its branches and leaves to the boy. The tree does this because she would give all of herself just to make the boy happy. After getting the branches and leaves, the boy leaves again for a very long time. One day he comes back and asks the tree for a boat. The tree does not have money, so all she can offer is her trunk of wood for the boy to cut and have and turn into a boat. The boy is happy and leaves again. The tree is now a stump. The boy comes back again, but this time he is an old man. The tree has nothing left to offer anymore, but the old man just wants a place to sit. So the stump lets the old man sit down for that it all she has left to offer. The tree is happy because the boy came back and the boy is happy for he has a place to sit.

Throughout the book, it’s easily seen through illustrations and read through text that the tree gets gradually smaller and sadder. The tree starts out big and strong as in the illustration below. If not noticed before, there is no color in the book.

But in the end the tree is shrunken to just a stump with the man sitting on her.

Reading this from an adult viewpoint makes the book an easier read, but how might a child interpret this book? What questions might be raised?

A child might start off by asking “Why does the boy always leave?” or “Why is the tree always happy if the boy leaves her all the time?” A child might ask that because of the repetitive quote

“And the tree was happy.”

The Giving Tree is a great picture book in the sense that it teaches children the meaning of love and how it is a two way street.

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