Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Giving Tree: Creepy or Cool?


http://www.amazon.com/The-Giving-Tree-Shel-
Silverstein/dp/0060586753/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid
=1374025088&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Giving+Tree
I want to know what you guys think. As a child, I loved The Giving Tree. I thought it was an amazing book. I can't really tell you why. I'm pretty sure I registered that it was sad. I'm pretty sure I realized that the tree gave the little boy everything she had. I never considered this relationship to be unhealthy, however. 

Recently, I have read arguments about how the tree is so co-dependant upon the boy, and how this is so unhealthy to teach a child. I've read that this is not a children's book--though to me, it is a children's book because I grew up with it presented to me as such. I've read that people considered this book is just down right creepy and terrible. 

http://www.amazon.com/The-Giving-Tree-Shel-
Silverstein/dp/0060586753/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid
=1374025088&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Giving+Tree


But how is it really terrible? 
What makes a book terrible--if a book is well-written and well-illustrated, how can it be terrible?
Aren't books supposed to teach lessons? 

What is the lesson of the giving tree? Is it co-dependence? unconditional love? Is it supposed to be sad? Is it satire? 

You know, Swift's A Modest Proposal was about eating children and people took it seriously. He was criticized. He was also joking...he was teaching lessons with his writing through his satire. 

I'm not saying The Giving Tree is satire. Do we know what Shel Silverstein was thinking when he was writing his books? No. But, he felt it was good--and though it was his bestseller, it also wasn't his favorite book. I think Silverstein believed in the simplicity of his book--he also believed that, as a creative person, he shouldn't worry how people receive his books. 

"People who say they create only for themselves and don't care if they are published... I hate to hear talk like that. If it's good, it's too good not to share. That's the way I feel about my work. So I'll keep on communicating, but only my way." (source)

I like Silverstein's lesson--as a writer, I want to communicate in my own way. I don't want to be censored. If the libraries censor me (and they didn't censor Shel Silverstein when I was a kid), that's cool--my books are still teaching a lesson somewhere. 

Thing is, The Giving Tree, to me, isn't just for kids. It's for adults. Kids, Adults--whatever--you're all gonna take away what you want from the book. If you see unconditional love, you'll see it. If you see a whole lot of creepiness and co-dependance, that's what you'll see. It's all about perspective. 

Me, I love The Giving Tree, and I sure will read it to my kids in the very far future. 

So, tell me--what do you think? Controversy around books cannot be avoided, but just as the banned-book debate, do you think this controversy is silly? Do you think it has substance? Does it matter? Do you agree with Silverstein? 

6 comments:

  1. I never read the book, I am sorry to say. But friends did and loved it. I do think that the idea of unconditional love being co-dependent is the creepy idea. Where would any of us be today if no one had given us unconditional love?

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  2. I did a school project on The Giving Tree when I was little, though I don't remember having strong feelings about it. I think if the book speaks to people's hearts, and they see their own humanity in it, then it's a good book, regardless of how they interpret it (and certainly regardless of what the author intended).

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  3. I always thought the story did an excellent description of a good parent. Loving parents do sacrifice and give all to their children. And if that's considered co-dependent, then I imagine it's no surprise that we are having trouble with our kids.

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  4. I think it's a children's book because children wouldn't read into it enough to make the story so crazy.

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  5. I love The Giving Tree. Sometimes I think we over-analyze things, like this. I think of the tree as a parent, as Elizabeth said, and it's an unconditional love. So I'll ignore these arguments and will keep reading it to my kids because it's a beautiful story.

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  6. I always thought it was for adults and not kids, and it was about unconditional love. Our youth dire tor at church introduced it to us.

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