on 29 December 2002
Whichever way you look at this book you have to agree, that for such a short piece, it is reaching you in places you never thought it would or could. I'm reading the reviews and I agree with them all, the bad and the good. My little girl doesn't fully understand it yet I think but I read it for one of her friends tonight and she did. I was introduced to Silverstein by my American brother-in-law and while some of it isn't easily translated by my daughter, most of it is. And she reads in wonderment now!!! I don't want to explain too much of what I think the Giving Tree is about, I'd rather she came to her own conclusions but she loves the story just as it is, a story. And she loves me reading it to her friends who come to visit. This has become a staple in this house...long may it last! And for those of you worried about giving this to your children after reading some of the reviews: let them make their own mind's up! You'll be surprised at the depth of your children.
on 7 December 1997
The Giving Tree is popularly thought to be about selfless giving and it's virtues. But the author himself says, "it's basically a story about a relationship between 2 people, 1 who gives, and 1 who takes"....this is revealing, because it shows to me more of an unhealthy "co-dependent" relationship, and what happens when a "tree" gives and gives (she's bled dry) and that the "boy" (a taker) is never satisified, even 'til death with the taking. No, this book is not about the virtue of selfless giving, it's a study in a certain type of human relationship. Not necessarily the best, and healthiest of those types. Shel himself doesn't think the tree is worthy of veneration. Neither do I.
But it's just as powerful...it's a study of symbiotic relationships...and ask yourselves, "Would I want to be the tree??" and ask yourselves, "Would i want to know the boy?" Think on the answers after you read it and your view of the book may change. Even more powerful perhaps when you really see what it's about.
on 13 May 1999
I had read and treasured The Giving Tree as a child, but I had largely forgotten it when I discovered a copy in a children's book store last year. I picked it up and showed it to my friend. "Look," I said. "I remember this book. What a cute story it was." We read it together, in the bookstore, for the first time in many years.
I nearly cried. What I remembered as a cute and slightly silly children's story is in fact an extraordinarily powerful parable of life and faith. The wisdom and simple power of this book still holds, even after all these years. We have lost a very fine author who wrote some of the greatest children's books in our language.
on 11 November 2012
This is an excellent children's book, (a child could even take time colouring the lovely line drawings.)
It covers the story of a tree and how much it gives to help keep a boy happy from childhood to old age.
The tree is selfless and gives until there is only a stump left but still it has gifts left to give.
The boy is carefree but as he ages he becomes more interested in material things and takes all that the tree offers without a second glance back, how sad that humans can genuinely be this callous.
Are you are giver - like the tree.
Or are you are taker - like the man that the boy becomes.
There are lessons to be learned from this story.
on 13 December 2010
I love this book its quite deep and can be read on so many levels, Is it a metaphor for a mother's love? Or that nature will always give until there is nothing left. That we are always a child of nature, and that in the end we will return to nature, and be consumed by it. That's my perception of it my son also loves it and expresses empathy for the tree as it's got nothing left, he also pointed out that the book referred to the old man as boy and that he was not. One of his favourites. One thing that is a bit strange is that the author's photo is massive and takes up the whole of the back cover my son said it was a scary man and why was he there
on 2 February 1999
You might think I am silly, I am a 26 year old guitarist in a metal band, and in the professional wrestling biz. And if there is one thing that rarly happenes to me is something that would make me cry. One day, I was at a Walmart with a friend of mine, and as he was scanning through the Hot Wheels (he collects them), I was roamin through and decided to pick up a book that was sitting on on a rack near the board games aisle, that one is none other than "The Giving Tree". So so I decided to scam through it then somehow I started to carefully read it. Then those words and pictures started to touch me. I finished reading it and went home. That book was in my mind for a good long while. Then as I came in to this website, and read those reviews about a book so beutiful I started to cry. That story is a type of vision I cannot shake off. This is the most touching book I have ever read. Something so simple, but yet it touched this Gen Xer pro wrestler. Get this book, I guarantee it will touch you.
on 10 March 1998
I worked in a book store and was pained every time someone requested this book because I believe it is grossly misunderstood. Everyone focuses on the "giving" tree and fails to see what the author has indicated in numerous interviews he intended to show, as well, the selfish boy who only took. In fact, he took so much he eventually destroyed the tree. There is no account of the boy attempting to re-pay or give back to the tree by watering or fertilizing. True friendships require that both parties give, thereby, strengthening each other so that both will have more to give each other. Like much of Silverstein's works, this is irony folks, the meaning is much beyond the obvious.
on 13 December 2015
This is a powerful story for children and adults. Like life's experiences, it is a mixture of happiness and sadness. Sometimes we must accept a bit of sadness to learn something important. Raising children to have a rosy, unrealistic view of themselves and the world is harmful in itself, and likely to create people like the boy in the book.
Another way to say it might be this: medicine doesn't always taste nice, and kids don't always want to eat their vegetables - but most adults would agree these are important things for a child to overcome. Wiser parents guide their children through difficult concepts with a story rather than sugar-coating life, where the child will inevitably face the situations alone and ill-equipped.
In short, the story details a boy and a tree who bond through playing together. The boy grows older and visits the tree less often, believing he has out-grown childish play with it. The tree, sad at losing his company, still does what it can to enable the boy to live his life away. The tree gives the boy different aspects of itself to try and help him with difficulties. The boy fails to learn, and in so doing is left old and beaten by life. The tree gets his company and its happiness in the end, albeit with both of them left in a stunted form.
In depth review (spoilers)
On the surface, both characters can be seen to take from each other in their own way, preventing one another from growth. The boy first seeks money and rather than get it himself he goes to the tree which gives its fruit to sell. We could assume the initial gift is squandered, as the boy returns again with nothing, needing help to make a house. Finally, by far the worst mistake and most harmful to the tree, the boy (now a man) seeks help to run from his problems. Each time the boy returns, the tree regains a sense of happiness and purpose.
Over the course of the story, the boy accepts changes to the tree that eventually can't be reversed - his limit should have been its initial offer of fruit. Thereby we see the dangers of giving ourselves to those blinded by self interest, as in the case of the narcissist / co-dependant relationship type. However, the boy takes what he was offered and no more, so there isn't a greed element to the story - a subtle point perhaps, but worth noting.
The tree gives of itself by consent, happy in the continuation of their relationship, and we assume not really understanding the consequences. Its ability to love is not diminished by the boy's neglect and it manages to keep an open heart through all. This suggests The Giving Tree is also a story about love, our free will to love and give of ourselves, and to forgive.
Through its seeming selflessness the tree is reduced, though not destroyed, and even in it's lesser state still finds something to offer. We can say that although the tree loved the boy and did its best to help, it didn't have all the answers. They both sought happiness in the moment, failing to find the wisdom that would free themselves from repeating their mistakes. So we see the importance of learning from error, and not basing our happiness on the satisfaction of others as it can be harmful and short-lived.
Although the boy has aged, each time he returns the tree still sees a boy - perhaps a device to show the boy has failed to really grow up. Can it ever be too soon for children to learn about the consequences of their own actions? Particularly the responsibility that comes with accepting another's love - that we shouldn't allow them to suffer for it. The story's simplicity contains masterful subtleties that will be revealed to the reader as they experience life.
Something I really like is we're left to consider what the tree might have done to actually help the boy. Could it perhaps have taught him to plant some of the apples and develop an orchard, instead of just selling them for short term gain? The tree might have understood that by compromising itself it wasn't helping either of them, and so to look for a sustainable solution. It shows how a person's ability to help others is limited by their own understanding.
There is a strong warning element central to the story's wisdom and hopefully the point of a good children's story is they learn something. By causing us to identify with the tree we see the tragedy of the boy's actions, even if we might be that boy. The potential this book has for offering a mirror to the reader is invaluable, and perhaps many of us have been that boy in one way or another.
Another interpretation to consider: That the Tree represents knowledge and wisdom.
Growing up, the boy plays with knowledge, enjoying its company. Then he is drawn away for a time by life and only returns when he wants money for material things. Satisfied with money, his next return is motivated by needing shelter. After that, and due to not maintaining his relationship with knowledge, he returns again only seeking a way to escape his failures - not to fix them. Eventually the failed person is left with only with the gnarled stump of their potential to know as tribute to their foolishness.
The boy and the tree are one - metaphorically his mistake is to cut off his own potential by failing to learn. I believe this is the ultimate meaning of the story about the tree and the apple, and it offers us many other lessons along the way.
on 3 December 1997
Title of Book: The Giving Tree
This book is a story of heart contact between a tree and a little boy.Once there was a tree, and she loved a little boy who came to her and played with every day. When he was a little boy he gathered her leaves and make them into crowns and play king of the forest, and climb up her, swing from her branches, eat her apples, and so on. He hadn't especially wishes yet. But time went by, he grew up and didn't come to her so much than he was a little boy. However, one day he came to her and said, "I want some money." So tree gave him a lot of apple and she said, "Take these apples. You can sell these, and you can get money." He sold them in the city. After that, he came to her occasionally, and asked her something. Whenever he wished to her, he took something which made him granted. At last the tree became only stump, and when the boy came, she said to him, "I'm sorry I can't give you anything." But the boy became very old, so he didn't need anything but only need relax place. So he sit down on her, and the tree was happy.
I thought this story was very thinkable. The tree always gave a lot of her own body for the boy when he wanted something. And the tree felt happy, but it is really? I think the tree always gave him her kind heart, but he didn't notice that because he was too young to understand. When the boy became very old, he noticed that and the tree became happy truly. This book touched my heart.
on 16 March 1998
If this book is supposed to be ironic (as some critics opine), it's a miserable failure, given the number of readers who take it literally and label it "inspiring." If it's not meant as irony, I find it frightening: real love means you give and give and give, even if the person you're giving to is thoroughly self-centered, takes your generosity for granted, never tries to see things from your point of view, and doesn't even bother to say "thank you." "Love your neighbor as yourself" implies that your love of others is grounded in respect for yourself. Neither the tree's behavior nor the boy's is worthy of emulation, and I would never give this book to a child.