Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree has always been a little controversial in terms of being a children's book.
It actually took Silverstein 4 years to get it published. The publishing companies didn't know what to make of it. Many believed the story too sad to sell to kids and too simple to sell to grown-ups.
Shel had turned to Ursula Nordstrom of Harper & Row to finally get the book published. And while the editors felt the story of a tree giving everything she has to a seemingly selfish boy, they printed it anyway; which, as we now know, became a great success. The Giving Tree eventually reached the best-seller list and stayed there for almost ten years.
Definitely, the tree that keeps on giving.
"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."
And the story continues with boy climbing her trunk, swinging in her branches, eating her apples and sleeping in her shade.
"And the boy loved the tree… very much. And the tree was happy."
The story follows the boy into manhood as he visits the tree less frequently. But, with every visit the tree wants nothing but to make him happy so she gives him whatever she can: apples to sell, branches to build a house, and even her trunk so the boy (now a man) can build a boat.
And as fate would have it, the boy (now an old man) returns to the tree (now a stump) yet again. Wondering what the tree could possibly have left to give, we find that she does have something the boy (old man) wants:
"Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest. And the boy did. And the tree was happy."
Below is an animated video of The Giving Tree read by Shel Silverstein, himself.
Well there it is - the unusual story of a tree's amazing capacity to give and love without expecting anything in return.