Books I Loathed discussion

Loathed Titles > The Giving Tree

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message 1: by Ryan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:29PM) (new)

Ryan Horricks | 12 comments How can this book average 4.5 stars????? There must be a lot of takers out there that want everyone around them to give them whatever they want...want a let me saw it off and give to you..want a kidney..wait I have take one....want another leg..I'll sit here....too tired with all those legs..sit on me....don't can leave for years on end..I'll remember you and all I've given to you..come back for more..because I still have more body parts for you to cut off and use...

message 2: by lilias (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:30PM) (new)

lilias Worst. Book. Ever.

message 3: by Ryan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:34PM) (new)

Ryan Horricks | 12 comments absolutely...I'm not sure what I hate more..the book, or all the people who read it and go..this has the best message ever, you should have all your kids read it..if you don't like it you don't have a heart

message 4: by Ryan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:34PM) (new)

Ryan Horricks | 12 comments LOL. I should write a satire called "The Taker" and basically just republish the book with no changes except the title...think that would fly?

message 5: by Holly (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:34PM) (new)

Holly | 40 comments That's an awesome idea.

Then you could package them together as a gift set, and bill it as a "children need to learn there are two sides to every story, it teaches empathy" thing and make a mint!

message 6: by Ryan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:34PM) (new)

Ryan Horricks | 12 comments There goes my awesome idea allotment for the year! And I wasted it on The Giving Tree...damn it!

message 7: by Michelle (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:50PM) (new)

Michelle (madguymom) | 1 comments Wow! I have been hesitant to voice my opinion on this book for the reasons that you list, but, Ryan, I totally agree!

My son likes this book, and I'm forced to read it from time to time. Oy vey.

message 8: by Skylar (new)

Skylar Burris (skylarburris) | 32 comments Some people have a negative, visceral reaction to the book, I think because they mistakenly believe they are required to see it as a positive and uplifting tale of giving, something they cannot manage to do.

These days, we are accustomed to sanitized, upbeat children's tales, but great children's literature has not always spared children the horrors of the world, and it has not always clearly stated its morals; more often, the morals are implied and are absorbed emotionally through the reading. We must not forget that Shel Silverstein was a biting satirist (consider such poems as "Almost Perfect But Not Quite.") It's just like Shel Silverstein to take the guise of a gentle little children's story to skewer the faults of humanity. Yes, "The Giving Tree" is a very disturbing book. It's disturbing because it's _meant_ to be.

Many Christians (including myself initially) have thought of this as an allegory for Christ's sacrifice. I can certainly see why people think this is a Christian allegory: the tree, like Christ, gives itself entirely for the boy, even to the point of abject humiliation. If it is a Christian allegory, however, it is the disturbing tale of Christ's terrible, painful, continuous rejection by man, and _not_ the heart-warming tale of unconditional love and forgiveness many Christians take it to be. There is no repentance in "The Giving Tree," and therefore no real forgiveness.

Some take it as a tale of unconditional parental love, but if it is, it is again a painful tale: a tale of the child who never, his entire life, truly learns to appreciate his parents. Environmentalist read it as a tale of man's selfish exploitation of nature. Feminists regard it as a story of man's subjugation and abuse of woman and woman's failure to stand up for herself (the tree is a "she"). The author himself has said that he meant the tale only to tell the ugly truth of how some people use, and some people allow themselves to be used.

The fact that the book can speak to so many people on so many different levels is, I think, evidence of its subtlety and irony. It really can work on more than one level, if you _want_ it to. But we err, I think, if we assume this is a "sweet" and positive tale. Few readers come to this book expecting the reality and complexity and vaguely drawn morals we get from the harsh Greek myths and the stark Bible stories and the creepy old fairy tales, which were the staples of past generations. Today we expect to encounter cleaned-up, upbeat, didactic stories where everyone learns his lesson: learns how to share or to tolerate or to be nice, a simplicity that is typical of so much children's literature today. But life does not always order itself according to neat storylines in which the bad guys suddenly become good by the third act. And children's literature such as "The Giving Tree" plays a valuable role by helping children to wrestle with the ugly truths of the world they will one day be exposed to as adults. It helps them, too, to begin processing, very early on, the powerful and often disturbing visceral emotions those ugly truths awake.

message 9: by Jason (new)

Jason (gireesh42) Hear Hear! Well said, Skylar. Talk about judging a book by its cover.

Though, Natalie, you're right, that's an excellent review.

message 10: by cj (new)

cj | 1 comments ha! amusing (and true) review. it's not the best message, but most likely, people are evaluating this book based upon nostalgia. i probably gave this book a five, because my mom read it to me as a little girl. i have read it as an adult, and while it isn't the beacon that i'd imagined it, i had an automatic fondness for it. i just can't figure out why my mom read it to me.

message 11: by Poppy (new)

Poppy | 21 comments I had no idea about all the smartypants reasons for thinking the Giving Tree is great.

I just figured, typical allegory where the boy is a boy, and the tree is a mommy, and the mommy gives and gives and gives. UNTIL SHE IS A STUMP.

I was all set for The Giving Tree II: Compost

And now, I discover that I underestimated Silverstein.

I hate it when that happens.

message 12: by Anne (new)

Anne Ha ha. Compost. I love it. Plus, who wants their mommy to be a stump? This boy just uses her. Maybe he was on drugs...

message 13: by Colleen (new)

Colleen | 7 comments I am so RELIEVED to find I am not the only one who finds this book distressing. To balance the unbalance of this relationship, I would always also read McGoogle Moves the Mighty Rock, by uh, maybe Quackenbush? A wonderful, 2-way friend relationship. Then we (middle schoolers and I)would talk about different kinds of relationships and how people are in them.

message 14: by Kate (last edited Jan 24, 2008 11:24PM) (new)

Kate (kay8jay) | 16 comments RE: The "Book-A-Minute" site's review of "The Giving Tree" remains the best:

"I can't believe you cut that tree down, you jerk."

That's so great! But I get you, Skylar, about how it's not like the book is depicting the way things should be. I'm glad you brought that up. I had always just assumed the book's sole message was along the lines of, "Some people may completely use you and exploit you, but it is best to have a giving spirit nonetheless."

I remember having it read aloud to me in school as a kid and feeling so very sad afterwards. I wish the teacher might have said something beforehand, or we would have talked about it afterwards, in the context of, "Is this the way a person should treat someone or something he loves?"

message 15: by Colleen (new)

Colleen | 7 comments Oops, that is McGoogan Moves the Mighty Rock.

message 16: by Alanna (new)

Alanna | 1 comments I actually liked this book. A lot. I think that may be because you all seem to be reading it like the message is that you should give and give and give until you have nothing left to give. But I read it as the sad story of someone who loved infinitely, and someone who took infinitely, until there was nothing left. A sad story. But a good story.

message 17: by Kate (new)

Kate (katiebobus) | 136 comments Mod
This book has been debated a LOT, here and elsewhere. I like your interpretation, Alanna.

message 18: by Heather (new)

Heather Kidder (hkidder) | 6 comments I LOVED this book.I love the tree. The little boy is an awful mean little guy who pays no attention to the tree as he grows older. I think it to shows how as we grow up we forget the things that made us so happy as kids and focus only on what we think we need, the wants in life as opposed to all the wonderful free things there are. I have always been a big Silverstein fan and this book is wonderful, its sad and its hard to like the man as he gets older but your heart just breaks for the tree. I also love that its not wishy washy book where everything is wrapped up nicely. I wish more books were like this, I agree, enough with the coddling, its not helping!

message 19: by Jojobean (new)

Jojobean Heather wrote: "I LOVED this book.I love the tree. The little boy is an awful mean little guy who pays no attention to the tree as he grows older. I think it to shows how as we grow up we forget the things that ma..."

I agree and I love this book as well

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