THE GIVING TREE is wonderful because everyone can connect to it and it brings up important issues for discussion with both older children and younger children. These issues include sacrifice, true friendship, and conserving our natural resources.
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The book features a boy and a tree as the only characters. As the boy grows up he comes back to visit the tree and asks for things on each visit. He wants things such as money, a house, and a boat. The tree sacrifices herself to give the boy what he wants without question. First the tree gives the boy her apples to sell for money. Then she gives her branches to make a house. Next she gives her trunk for him to build a boat. Finally the tree has nothing left to give but the boy is now an old man and all he wants is a quiet place to sit and rest. She once again offers herself and he sits on all that remains: her stump.
THE GIVING TREE is wonderful for any age. With younger children they try to figure out what the boy will want from the tree next. Discussion follows the reading with questions such as why the tree continued to give when the boy didnt come back to visit for years. Other topics included whether the boy was a good friend to the tree, or was the tree a better friend to the boy. All of these are important lessons for the young child.
With older children, the discussions are more involved. You can also use this book to show how to analyze a fictional story reinforcing the elements of fiction. The students are able to discuss the type of characters (e.g., the tree is a static character which can be a good thing), the various elements of plot, debating the climax of the story, as well as the rising action of the story. It is a wonderful tool to use with these older students.
The illustrations are enlightening although not excellent. The focus is not on the illustrations but on the underlying element of doing the right thing and about sacrifices. Everyone reading this story or hearing it read to them can relate to it and make a connection to what is being told. It can be used with any age group and the story will have an impact on them regardless of age, ethnicity, or socio-economic grouping.
Overall this book is wonderful and the story is one that will make the reader and listener both smile at the end. Its a wonderful analogy that has people thinking long after the last page has been read.
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
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