I love to read. My kids both read, my husband reads. Our home is filled with books both old and new, hardcover and paperback, literary and fluffy, fiction and non-fiction, poetry and prose.
I love reading about books and talking about books and writing about books. But I have a confession to make:
I do not like the beloved classic The Giving Tree.
There are many children’s classics I read later in life – such as The Velveteen Rabbit (which I read at a dentist’s office waiting when I was 19. I broke down in tears.) and Guess How Much I Love You (which makes me cry each time I read it to my kids), and The Giving Tree, which I read just a few years ago; and when I read it, it just made me mad.
I know I’m opening myself up to criticism here, but when I read that book I found a tree that gives every ounce of what it has to make an ungrateful boy happy. This sends the exact wrong message that I prefer to champion. Those who recommended the book to me told me that I would find a lovely story of unconditional love; but I didn’t find that here as much as I found a cautionary tale.
Maybe I’m oversensitive. I struggle with finding a balance of taking care of my obligations (family and work) while still retaining some time for myself, to recharge. I know that you can’t give every bit of yourself — if there’s nothing left to give then what becomes of you? It’s self-destructive to try to give every bit of yourself away. But that’s what the tree demonstrates quite clearly to me — giving up every bit of itself to a boy who only demands more and more.
The tree literally is destroyed by the boy.
Gratitude and respect are two character traits that I feel are necessary for my children to learn and to exhibit. We talk frequently about how it’s more important to be thankful for what we have than to complain about what we don’t have. When I read The Giving Tree, I find a story that runs counter to that lesson I want my children to learn.
I was relieved to learn (via a quick Google search) that my disdain for this title is not unique; there are as many people who loathe the book as those who love it. What about you? Fan or foe? I’d love to hear from you.