Monday, February 25, 2013

I edited The Giving Tree for my son so that it involves the boy being thankful

Scroll down to see my edits, changes, adjustments I made to The Giving Tree

I'm confused about The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, do I like it, do I hate it?  There are aspects I really like, such as how useful the tree is and how generous. The story shares how the tree gives a boy her love, her branches to play on, leaves to play with, shade to cool off under, apples to make money, branches to build a house, trunk to make a boat, and when the tree has nothing left but a stump the tree offers the stump to the boy who is now an old man to sit on and rest...but the boy never once says thank you.

That REALLY pisses me off. Yes the title of the book is The Giving Tree, but when I read this book to my son I'm sharing with him a book about just asking for and getting stuff...Stuff that really helped the boy out. Ummm, I don't think that's the story I want to share because being a decent human being is noticing what people give you whether it be material or just their time, and being grateful for it.

Maybe it's meant to be a story, an analogy, of a parent giving everything to their child?  Loving the child and wanting him happy, okay, I get it, but what about teaching the child through the book about loving back and being thankful and appreciating what you are given.

I decided to give the book a little makeover, I added a message about being thankful, grateful and appreciative.

So with my Sharpie I edited The Giving Tree this weekend, adding some words, crossing off others and changing the ending.... now I can read it to my son and feel good about it.

You are welcome to use this as a guide if you want to edit the book as well for your baby's at home library.

Obviously these changes are very rough, they are written like notes to me while I read the book to my son.

Although we might really like certain aspects of a book, I for one, am the type of Mom and Reader that will grab my Sharpie and make the book more special or meaningful if needed. Without these edits, honestly I would toss the book because it's not enough for me for the boy to be given things that changed his life in great ways without taking a second to say thank you so much.

The Giving Tree starts with...

Once there was a tree...
and she loved a little boy.
And every day the boy would come
and he would gather her leaves
and make them into crowns
and play king of the forest.
He would climb her trunk
and swing from her branches
and eat apples.
And they would play
hide-and-go seek.
And when he was tired,
he would sleep
in her shade.
And the boy loved the tree...
very much.
And the tree was happy.
But time went by.
And the boy grew older.
And the tree was often alone.

Okay, I can make it that far. But then I had to add and adjust.

The boy doesn't seem that old here...maybe a teenager or young adult, so most teens and young adult wouldn't be "too big to climb and play (chill)." Besides, no one should ever be too old to climb and have fun! I still want to climb trees! If your body allows you to climb you should be climbing and never let yourself be to old to enjoy the little joys of life. Also I thought the boy should show a sense of missing the tree since he's been away so long, so I added that.

The boy climbs the tree afterall but doesn't express his thankfulness for the apples from the tree, so I added that.

Again, I added that the boy missed the tree. And on the following page gave the boy a more kind response to the tree's offer to climb her branches. When the boy asked for the house he came off kind of like a spoiled brat so I added the word Please.

I added that the boy was thankful for the branches that will help him build his house and left the tree bare.

The tree has offered the boy everything she is made of and it would be nice if the boy was surprised and appreciated the tree's generosity.

The boy has been away for a long time and doesn't share with the tree where he's been and how he's been doing on his boat made of her trunk so I added a line about him sharing his adventures with her.

This page makes the old man seem like a grump, so a light hearted "That's okay," gives a softer and kinder appeal to the old man's relationship with the tree.

Next I wanted the boy to remember that the tree has nothing to give because she's already given him so much, so I added for the boys thoughts "You've already given me so much..."

I'm not happy with the book ending with the tree happy, because it's not just about the tree, it's about the boy and that he has learned something and experienced something profound, a friendship, an appreciation for the tree in his life.

And the Mom was happy.

Read on!

Isobella & Phoenix



  1. In the immortal words of Rainier Wolfcastle, "THAT'S THE JOKE." If you make the boy instantly appreciative about every last thing the tree gives him, it ruins the moral at the end of the story. The Giving Tree is all about not taking things for granted. As the boy grows up, he becomes more and more demanding until it's too late. By just sitting on the stump and spending time with the tree, it shows that he appreciates everything the tree has given him. Let the kid figure it out. Talk to him about it. Explore how the boy was wrong to NOT say thank you. Being a parent isn't about shielding our kids from the world, it's about showing it to them and exploring it with them. I don't know how old your child is, so maybe it's too soon for that discussion (or, in fact, any discussion beyond "Where's Mommy? There she is!"). But don't ruin a classic poem just because it doesn't spell out the ideas behind it.

    1. I would like to second this many times over.

      If you don't understand a book, move on. It's not your story or your message and it was never yours to change. I hope your child reads The Giving Tree one day on their own, seeing the beautiful and thought provoking message for what it is. I hope that he will see what you were trying to do, but also how it ruins a piece of literature to remove all questions and conflict.

  2. Wow I'm quite surprised by the vitriol of the three comments you got here... I guess when you attack people's beloved children's books you're bound to get some angry but wow.

    The Giving Tree has always rubbed me the wrong way too. If at the end the boy actually seemed grateful and sorry that he was such a snot through the whole book, I might understand where these people were coming from with the message of the story but it just doesn't come off that way at all.

  3. Remove this tale of selfishness and greed from your child's library entirely. A grateful selfish greedy child is no better than the selfish greedy boy in this book. The book is a sad tale of the tree and our environment. Gratitude for sacrifice does not redeem it.

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  5. It's a story to show that without thankfulness and appreciation, a heart was still capable of continuous loving and that the memory of their friendship and unbreakable bond was real. Unconditional giving does not require a thank you. The power of the book is that we as caring humans would FEEL for the tree and understand more about how we are all that boy and how we are all that tree. It would and should make every human who reads it weep. It's a gorgeous tale of love and sacrifice- the kind we long for in our own soul. It's a good one. The power is still evident by the reactions you've gotten. Probably by men who were touched so profoundly they were changed for life. It is one of those life changing experiences. It wounds the heart in such a way that it becomes a sacred lesson to us all, for life.

  6. Good for you. Personally, I'm more on the side of "Don't read this book to kids at all" because it glorifies what's essentially the dynamics of an abusive relationship. Exploitation and disrespect aren't love. Accepting being taken for granted isn't love. There are better stories about love to read to children.