The Giving Tree

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Author: Shel Silverstein

Grades: Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd

Synopsis: The book follows the lives of an apple tree and a boy. In his childhood, the boy enjoys playing with the tree, climbing her trunk, swinging from her branches, and eating her apples. However, as the boy grows older, he spends less time with the tree and tends to visit her only when he wants material items. In an effort to make the boy happy, 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. 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 and states that all he wants is “a quiet place to sit and rest,” which the tree, who is just a stump, could provide. With this final stage of giving, “the Tree was happy”.

Debrief Questions:

  • What kind of resources does our planet give us? If we always took as much as we wanted, what do you think would happen?
  • Can you think of a time where you accidentally took advantage of a family member or friend? Why is it important to be aware of how our actions affect others?
  • In helping the boy, was the tree helping herself? Do you think it would’ve been wrong for the tree to say “no” to the boy?
  • Did the boy show his appreciation for the tree? Why or why not?