'The Giving Tree' celebrates its 50th anniversary

'The Giving Tree' centers on the relationship between a boy and a very generous tree.

'The Giving Tree' is by Shel Silverstein.

The classic children’s book “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

The picture book follows a young boy who loves a tree. When the boy is younger, he eats the tree’s apples and plays on her branches, but when the boy grows into a man, he asks more and more of the tree.

Barnes & Noble writer Beth Amos notes that “this isn't a colorful, fun-filled, happy-themed book.”

Publisher HarperCollins is releasing a new edition of the book for the 50th anniversary (it was first published on Oct. 7, 1964, according to IndieBound) which includes a CD of Silverstein reading the book. In addition, the book was released in e-book form earlier this year, the first work by Silverstein to be available in that format, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

For the anniversary, New York Times writers Anna Holmes and Rivka Galchen recently debated the true message of the book.

“A passionate and very vocal minority of reviewers on sites like Amazon and Goodreads seems to find the story an affront not just to literature but to humanity itself,” Holmes wrote. “Boy meets adoring, obliging apple tree and eventually, through a combination of utter impotence and blatant manipulation, makes off with her branches, her trunk and, of course, the literal fruits of her labor.” 

Meanwhile, Gavchen wrote, “’The Giving Tree’… is a great book…. The boy and the tree are both ‘flawed,’ and in the most old-fashioned way, their flaws, which are also their characters, determine their fates. The sadness one feels in reading this book so full of the word ‘happy’ is not unlike the sadness of knowing just how it’s going to end up for poor Oedipus. ‘The Giving Tree’ is in part a disturbing tale of unconditional love, in part a tender tale of the monsters that we are.”

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