MY Chinese translator in Taiwan, Huang Wen-fan, has a little boy named Willy. In a recent letter, the father was describing to me his young son, whom I had not seen in several years. He told me about Willy being in school and having various enthusiasms: ``He enjoys cartoons, books, television, and movies, in that sequence.'' I promptly decided I was going to send Willy a ``book'' that also was ``cartoons.''
The following weekend, I went, together with my husband, to a neighborhood bookstore and located the children's section. Several copies of ``The Giving Tree'' were piled high on a central table. The book immediately enchanted me. It looked somehow Chinese, with its dust jacket picturing, on a white ground, a spreading green tree, under which dallied a contented little boy, reaching up to catch an apple.
Thumbing through the pages, I seemed to find the book becoming even more ``Chinese,'' with its emphasis on nature and its focus on the tree and on the boy. Being so much captivated by it, I was relieved to see it described on the cover as ``for children of all ages.''
I was drawn to both the format and the content of ``The Giving Tree.'' Its stress on the visual seemed to relate it to the ``cartoon'' world I knew would appeal to Willy. Although I realized that Willy would not be able to read it by himself, I felt satisfied that his daddy, whose business is translation, very well might enjoy using it as a vehicle to teach his young son a little English.
My husband had grave reservations about the choice. He felt it made no sense to send a Chinese boy a book he could not read. He almost convinced me of the error of my ways -- almost, but not quite. I purchased the book and mailed it the next day.
A couple of weeks later, I got a call from a Chinese writer friend now living in New York, to tell me she had received a letter written in Chinese from Willy. He asked her to please thank ``Aunt Mary'' for this wonderful book by which he was so much moved and which he so much loved.
He felt the tree resembled the family in its protectiveness, in its care, in its undemanding, unrelenting generosity.
I felt already adequately thanked, when a letter to me in English from the father followed shortly thereafter. He enclosed a page from the Central Daily News of Taipei. He told me of how thrilled the family was. Willy had, at his dad's suggestion, written an article on ``The Giving Tree,'' expressing his reactions and his interpretations -- and there it was, on the Children's Page of the Central Daily News -- under the byline of ``Author Willy Huang.''
Willy's analysis and conclusion -- that ``The Giving Tree,'' in its sheltering attributes, is suggestive of parental care -- led him to determine to be a good boy to his parents, and in so doing to discharge his obligation as a son, in keeping with the age-old Confucian requirement of ``filial piety.''
And no one has been more overjoyed than ``Aunt Mary,'' seeing such a result from her ``controversial'' gift.