The Giving Tree

witten and illustrated by Shel Silverstein

"Once there was a tree ... and she loved a little boy." In giving of herself the tree sacrificed to make the boy happy.

A classic tale of few words and simple line drawings. A tree starts out as a leafy playground, shade provider, and apple bearer for a rambunctious little boy. Making the boy happy makes the tree happy, but with time it becomes more challenging for the generous tree to meet his needs. When he asks for money, she suggests that he sell her apples. When he asks for a house, she offers her branches for lumber. When the boy is old, too old and sad to play in the tree, he asks the tree for a boat. She suggests that he cut her down to a stump so he can craft a boat out of her trunk. He unthinkingly does it. At this point in the story, the double-page spread shows a pathetic solitary stump, poignantly cut down to the heart the boy once carved into the tree as a child that said "M.E. + T." "And then the tree was happy... but not really." When there's nothing left of her, the boy returns again as an old man, needing a quiet place to sit and rest. The stump offers up her services, and he sits on it. "And the tree was happy."

It is important to consider the emotional maturity of the reader before recommending this book. The message of the story seems open to interpretation but this chronicle of love and giving and sacrifice can provide the opportunity for much meaningful discussion.