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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Guest Blogger Charlotte: The Giving Tree

The Giving Tree has been inescapable throughout my childhood, I see it on every bookshelf, bookstore, and library I pass, but I hadn’t bothered to pick it up until now.  You know that one bestseller that’s been around forever, and that everyone has seen and you’ve heard so much about that you feel like you’ve seen it without actually having seen it? Yea, that’s my relationship with The Giving Tree. Okay, wow, I now see why this book is on almost every bookshelf in America. And, I’ve got to say, for a couple of hundred words, this story is surprisingly heavy and meaningful.

I know we’re all used to children’s books with a single or maybe a couple of lessons or morals woven into the story with a nice, neat payout at the end. This kind of story is satisfying to the mind and perfect for helping with sleep. That said, The Giving Tree is not this kind of book and should probably not be read as a bedtime story.

And that’s the exactly what’s so great about it! This book makes you think. It tugs at your heartstrings in lots of different directions. Shel Silverstein is a true artist and The Giving Tree is possibly his most thought provoking work. The book is at most a five-minute read and, again, packed with layers and layers of meaning. I’ve gotten far less out of five-hundred-pagers I was stuck with for a week.

The story is about a boy and the special relationship he has with his favorite tree. The tree is a girl. He loves the tree, visits her every day, and does with her all of the things boys usually do with trees. The tree loves the boy too and is increasingly sad as the boy grows up and his visits to the tree become less frequent. When the boy does visit and needs something, the tree provides. The tree sacrifices for the boy. First her apples, then her branches, and finally her trunk, leaving nothing but an old stump. Still, when the boy returns the tree is overjoyed, and gives her all to please him. The story ends with the boy, now an old man, desiring only to spend the rest of his days resting near the stump. The tree warmly welcomes him back.

There are so many ways to interpret this story. It’s also clear to me that my interpretation of the story will change as my perspective changes. The meaning of this story depends totally on the lens through which you view it. And that’s what makes it great! I’m sure I’ll read it again in five years and see it in a whole new light.

I did have a few immediate thoughts when I closed the book. For me the story brought clarity to the concept of unconditional love and I was immediately thankful for my wonderful family and all they do for me. And all the things we do for each other. It’s an intense feeling to know that my family would sacrifice for me in the same way the tree sacrificed for the boy.

I also thought about the tree and how she seems to depend on the boy for her happiness. The entire time the tree is only trying to please the boy so he would stay, however, as soon as he leaves (pun intended) she is instantly saddened. This reminded me to be responsible for my own happiness and to not let my sense of self get wrapped up in anyone else. I don’t want to end up with just my stump.

It’s important to remember to climb trees and take naps outside in the shade. The boy in the story lost his innocence and imagination, which I think was ultimately a source of his trouble. In life you don’t need every single thing available because in the end it won’t make you happy.

The Giving Tree is certainly food for thought. The story will undoubtedly leave you feeling good about the people around you.

Take five minutes and read this book.

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