In the lead up to Christmas 2014 we will publish a series of festive and inspirational posts written by the authors at The Madeleine Milburn Agency.
Author of the fantastic YA book, THE DARK INSIDE (Simon & Schuster, 2014) – Rupert Wallis read Theology at Cambridge University and holds an MFA in Screenwriting and Writing for Television.
His debut novel was published in January 2014 and has since received rave reviews and been nominated for numerous awards.
Rupert Wallis’s Inspirational Book Choice – Shel Silverstein’s ‘The Giving Tree’
Christmas is about giving and receiving so I thought it would be apt to highlight a book I have discovered late on but which still fascinates me – Shel Silverstein’s ‘The Giving Tree’ (1964).
It’s a simple story that has inspired a variety of interpretations and points of view, and it seems that people are either offended by the book or embrace it. Perhaps this has helped it strike a chord though with sales according to Wikipedia, by 2011, of 8.5 million.
Silverstein was a man of many talents, not only a children’s author but also a cartoonist, singer and songwriter (he wrote the Johnny Cash hit, ‘A Boy Named Sue’) and screenwriter.
Apparently, ‘The Giving Tree’ was not Silverstein’s favourite book but I imagine it’s been his most popular and it’s certainly been controversial. If you don’t know the story I won’t spoil the plot – you can watch an animated version of the book below with Silverstein narrating – but the essence of the book concerns the relationship between an apple tree and a boy. Through the story, the tree submits lovingly to every request the boy makes of her, even when he grows up into a man.
The nature of giving (loving?) so unconditionally is what has proved so divisive for readers. Is the story about the joys of giving to someone or is it about the self-destructive nature of giving too much? The fact that the tree is female points to other potential readings of the story, that of the parent-child relationship, or even that of Mother Nature and humankind. Maybe the message is an ecological one?
I’m still not entirely sure what to make of Silverstein’s book and this is what makes it endlessly fascinating to me.
Something I have thought about during the writing of my new book could perhaps relate to ‘The Giving Tree’, namely, that people always want to try to understand why bad things happen to them yet it’s never usually the case whenever good things do.
I hope you enjoy ‘The Giving Tree’ and that it has as much resonance for you as it has done for me. What is Silverstein saying? I still don’t know.