The Giving Tree, The Remix
I think there are two books that everyone receives at certain points in their lives. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! after any type of graduation and The Giving Tree if you have kids.
Oh, The Places You’ll Go! is self-explanatory. It’s a congratulatory book about the possibilities that await you and your successes to come. The Giving Tree is a little less clear.
I’ve read this book to my daughter multiple times, and I have wondered to myself what is the message of the book? Because it’s a book I received upon becoming a parent, I’ve often looked at it from a parent’s perspective. Being a parent can often be a thankless job; children are demanding and it’s rare that diaper changes, homemade dinners, family vacations and the like are met with a “thank-you” (at least until they’re older). But that’s not why we’re parents, right? We’re not in it for the gratitude. And often, seeing the enjoyment on our children’s faces is plenty.
Even so, when I read The Giving Tree aloud, I find myself reading it in a somber tone. How could you not? This tree is literally destroying itself at the behest of a boy that doesn’t seem to care at all about the tree’s well-being. I suppose I summed it up as a story of unrequited love with a bittersweet ending. (She ends up with the boy spending the time with her that she so desired, but there is nothing left of her but an old stump.)
I had no idea that it is one of the divisive children’s books ever. So much so, that the Editor of the book, Phyllis Fogelman, had this to say: “I have had qualms about my part in the publication of The Giving Tree, which conveys a message with which I don’t agree. I think it is basically a book about a sadomasochistic relationship.” Yikes.
Well, divisive no more because Topher Payne has fixed it. The sad progression of the tree giving its apples, branches, and trunk to the thankless boy is replaced with the tree voicing her concerns over the give-take nature of their relationship. “I am not going down like that,” says the tree. OK, sis!
Check out The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries. What do you think of the revised ending?
Also, read We Need to Talk about The Giving Tree, via The New York Times.