The Giving Tree and Me

When I was two, I loved having my parents read me books. I enjoyed getting ready for bed because a book was the prize for minimal whining. One particular night, as I was brushing my teeth, I yelled down the stairs for my father to come up and pick out a book. This was unusual; I almost always insisted on choosing the book. However, I felt that since he would be in my room explaining what Roald Dahl and Mary Pope Osborne meant in that certain line on that page I had always asked about for hours, I would give him the luxury of picking.

My father picked from the line of colorful bindings all written by Dr. Seuss as well as a few other authors on my bookshelf. Everyone my age knew how to count one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. The variety of books on the shelf were short and had pictures on every page, making them seem elementary. I liked these sorts of books but never paid much attention to understanding them. This time, however, it was a cover I did not recognize: a young boy against a green background reaching up to an apple tree. The author was Shel Silverstein. I flopped down on my bed and got into the familiar listening position. After turning out the light and turning my bedside table light on, my dad opened the book to reveal a short poem. I was expecting a much longer book compared to those I was used to reading. The pages had a stiffness to them and smelled new.

My father began to read. I thought, Why is the boy playing with a tree? It was not until my dad read into the middle of the story that I started to dislike the boy. How could he forget about the tree that was so happy to see him? Why was he taking from her? She was giving him what he wanted. I was unhappy. I started to sympathize with a tree. I was used to reading longer stories with twists and turns. I was used to reading books that had substance and allowed me to imagine the setting and the people. This poem would be too short for me to get lost in the spell.

However, I found that I started to grow a fondness for the book. I asked my dad to read it to me nightly. I knew that the same words of a tree giving the boy everything he wanted and for him to return as an old man would devastate me. I held off on asking my dad what a certain line meant and what was to come of it. My young mind could understand fluently what Shel Silverstein was trying to tell. While in my familiar nightly listening position, I fell in love with literature.

As I grew older, my taste in books grew too. I began to read the Twilight series followed by the Harry Potter series. I started to love the books that popular culture told me to. I took what I had learned from The Giving Tree and began to read with my heart. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I found a companion in Hermione, who excelled academically yet was taunted for doing what she did best. I took each of her woes personally, just as I had done with The Giving Tree. I believed that both of these characters deserved the attention the author was failing to give them. This was different from how I was used to reading. My father taught me that in order to understand books I would read, or be assigned to read, I would have to put aside my dislike of the author’s writing. I had to learn how to follow the story being told with an open mind. I had to learn to put aside my frustration with the author and instead focus on the story being told.

Even at this young age, I learned that a new book was just a new beginning. It was just a new binding to familiarize myself with. I liked the excited feeling I got when I walked into bookstores and spotted a book that belonged on my bookshelf. I wanted to have that new, unfamiliar binding and to read it until it had it become a favorite.