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.
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?