“Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.”
And that’s the start of the most thought-provoking children’s book that I’ve read.
I always give myself a dose of children’s book once in a while especially if I have just finished “intense” and “deep” books. Aside from being an easy read I also enjoy the illustrations which are like vitamins to my eyes after all the all-text a usual book gives.
One of the reasons why I adore reading children’s books is because they are to the point. No flowery points and no beating around the bush. The message is direct although interpretations vary sometimes. They will make readers think but not to the point that they’ll be confusing.
And I decided to pick up The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. A not-the-usual children’s book.
This is a story about a boy and his tree friend. The tree always makes sure that the boy is always happy by giving him everything from his fruit, leaves, branches and even trunk just to satisfy the needs and priorities of the boy. The story chronicles the story of their friendship starting when the boy was just a child up until his old age.
Much has been said about this book. Some doesn’t like it while some adore it. Both sides differ on what’s the message this book is giving.
If I’ll read it as a child, the book taught me how to become unselfish and compassionate. That when someone is in need you should always give a helping hand. And if you can and you have something that you can give, give it. Or we can call it an Agape-style love. But as an adult this taught me that I should choose my friends wisely because some are really just there with you to use you and abuse your kindness. A line should be drawn between being kind and too kind that you’ll sacrifice everything, as in everything, to make others happy. Or in short, we should avoid codependency.
There is what we call Agape-style love. And I really really really would like to think that this is what the book is trying to extend to its readers. Agape is a Greek word synonymous with unconditional love, especially brotherly love and charity. Codependency on the other hand is when someone in a relationship support or tolerates the other’s addiction, immaturity and irresponsibility.
The books tackles the delicate question about – “when is giving be described as too much?” The book had been a subject of numerous interpretations and layers that reviewers take about this book. Some discussed Jesus’ love for us. How Jesus sacrificed his life for our salvation without him asking for anything in return. Some associated it with the unconditional parental love, that even if sometimes we forsake them they still do their best to provide us with everything that we need. And other associate it with how we exhaust mother nature. How we get and get everything from mother nature and forget to give back and take care of her.
I have mixed emotions after reading this. You know that feeling that you want the ending but still, you also to just yank the last page and draw a different ending. I just felt bad with the tree. I can’t say the ending because it’ll spoil future readers.
Doing further research, I learned that the author is a satirist. A person who uses humor, irony, exaggeration or ridicule to reveal the fault of humanity. I believe that whatever the author the author would like to get across its readers, , whether this is really about agape-love or to teach it’s readers about codependency, the main point, I believe, is to provide reality. That it is not always like how usually read in other children’s books that it always ends happy. This is disturbing but it did what it has to do with a purpose. The author may not be able to provide a clear direction as to what the book would want to be think about, I believe, that he’s still successful with making the readers think.
I, personally, want to take this book in a positive way. I want to think that at the end both the tree and the boy learned their lessons. Yes, the tree is just a stomp now but he can still speak, a new sprout will rise from its trunk and he’ll live a new life and be of service to a new boy. The boy is already old but he can still inspire others. He can still deliver a message to the young and youth. Advising them what he learned from his friendship with the tree.
The has its share of high and low reviews. The reason why I’m giving this 5-star is because this got me thinking. Not just me but also a lot of people who read this. This got me realize and ponder on a lot of things especially on the capabilities of human towards other people. This moved me and this is one of the few books that I’ll always remember.
I can say that, yes, this is a children’s book but the meaning and thoughts that can be extracted through it transcends boundaries of age.