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Written in a straightforward, nonscientific language for beginning botanists of any age. Reviews from Goodreads.

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Read an excerpt of this book! Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. The tree is very "giving" and the boy evolves into a "taking" teenager, man, then elderly man.


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Despite the fact that the boy ages in the story, the tree addresses the boy as "Boy" his entire life. In an effort to make the boy happy at each of these stages, the tree gives him parts of herself, which he can transform into material items, such as money from her apples , a house from her branches , and a boat from her trunk. With every stage of giving, "the Tree was happy". In the final pages, both the tree and the boy feel the sting of their respective "giving" and "taking" nature.

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The boy does return as a tired elderly man to meet the tree once more. She tells him she is sad because she cannot provide him shade, apples, or any materials like in the past. He ignores this because his teeth are too weak for apples, and he is too old to swing on branches and too tired to climb her trunk and states that all he wants is "a quiet place to sit and rest," which the tree, who is weak being just a stump, could provide. With this final stage of giving, "the Tree was happy".

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Interest in the book increased by word of mouth ; for example, in churches "it was hailed as a parable on the joys of giving. In a — National Education Association online survey of children, among the "Kids' Top Books," the book was 24th. There are numerous interpretations of the book, including: [12] [13].

Ursula Nordstrom attributed the book's success partially to "Protestant ministers and Sunday-school teachers", who believed that the tree represents "the Christian ideal of unconditional love. Some people believe that the tree represents Mother Nature and the boy represents humanity. The book has been used to teach children environmental ethics. One writer believes that the relationship between the boy and the tree is one of friendship. As such, the book teaches children "as your life becomes polluted with the trappings of the modern world — as you 'grow up' — your relationships tend to suffer if you let them fall to the wayside.

A common interpretation of the book is that the tree and the boy have a parent—child relationship, as in a collection of essays about the book edited by Richard John Neuhaus in the journal First Things.

The Illustrated Book of Trees

Kass wrote about the story that "it is wise and it is true about giving and about motherhood," and her husband Leon R. Kass encourages people to read the book because the tree "is an emblem of the sacred memory of our own mother's love. Mary Ann Glendon wrote that the book is "a nursery tale for the 'me' generation, a primer of narcissism, a catechism of exploitation," and Jean Bethke Elshtain felt that the story ends with the tree and the boy "both wrecks.

A study using phenomenographic methods found that Swedish children and mothers tended to interpret the book as dealing with friendship, while Japanese mothers tended to interpret the book as dealing with parent—child relationships. Some authors believe that the book is not actually intended for children, but instead should be treated as a satire aimed at adults along the lines of A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift.

Elizabeth Bird, writing for the School Library Journal , described The Giving Tree as "one of the most divisive books in children's literature". Totally self-effacing, the 'mother' treats her 'son' as if he were a perpetual infant, while he behaves toward her as if he were frozen in time as an importunate baby. This overrated picture book thus presents as a paradigm for young children a callously exploitative human relationship — both across genders and across generations.

It perpetuates the myth of the selfless, all-giving mother who exists only to be used and the image of a male child who can offer no reciprocity, express no gratitude, feel no empathy — an insatiable creature who encounters no limits for his demands. Winter Prosapio said that the boy never thanks the tree for its gifts.

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One college instructor discovered that the book caused both male and female remedial reading students to be angry because they felt that the boy exploited the tree. Some readers may interpret the book against the wider background of Silverstein's interactions with women, e. The photograph of Silverstein on the back cover of the book has attracted attention.