Today I’m happy to share a guest post from Becky Breed about Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree.” With all the kids back in school now, this is a great time to get inspired by this great classic. Becky Breed and Lucy Adkins (co-authors of Writing in Community: Say Goodbye to Writer’s Block and Transform Your Life) operate a wonderful and helpful blog for aspiring writers. Thanks for sharing your story today. – Holly
Stories That Make a Difference
“Cut down my trunk and make a boat,” said the tree. “Then you can sail away…and be happy.”
Fifty years ago, Shel Silverstein wrote “The Giving Tree,” a story about the relationship between an apple tree and a small boy. The tree gave everything he had to the boy – apples to eat, branches to swing on and to build a house with, a trunk to climb and make a boat – they even played hide-and-go-seek under the tree’s wide canopy. Every time the tree presented the boy with gifts, “the tree was happy. At the end of the story and the tree was a tired old man, he shared his last gift with the boy, a weathered stump for sitting and resting.
I bought the book, as I recall, many years ago, at the end of a long, summer vacation, where my girls ages seven and ten were restless, looking forward to school starting, but not admitting it. Autumn arrived early that year, the trees had exchanged their bright green leaves for winter coats that looked like someone had mixed together all the primary colors of red, blue and yellow to make brown. The earth was settling in for the cold, winter months ahead, even its heartbeat had slowed down like it was holding its breath for what was to come. Everywhere there were fifty shades of beige, and, like what often happens that time of the year, a feeling of drabness overcame me, something I couldn’t quite shake off. Bright blooms on my summer flowers dried up looking like little old women in bonnets, and the texture of the days had a sepia quality. It was as if my energy – even the sunlight felt it – was being slowly drained out of me. I was walking through mud.
And then, I read “The Giving Tree,” first once, then twice – then, so many times I couldn’t count them on my fingers and toes twice over. During each reading, Silverstein’s words touched me in such ways that each selfish thought, each tarnished sentiment about the turning of the seasons, was dismissed – even lit – by his storytelling, by the simple and beautiful kindness of the apple tree. The brown leaves became shiny copper coins and the sky itself took on a luminosity that fired up the steel colored heavens. Everywhere was this sense of wonder and possibility, and my perception of autumn was transformed.
A story about a tree, a giving tree, had made all the difference. And then I reflected if a tree could make such a difference in a person’s life, what wonders could happen if all of us gave a little more than we thought we could.
- What are your favorite children’s books? Make a list of the ones you still keep on your shelf, maybe even read.
- Think about the characters, storylines and plots in these books. Which ones make you happy, or perhaps, impact you today as a writer, as a person? Was there a moral lesson or an unforgettable character that has stayed with you?
- Now, select one that you want to write about. Consider using this starter phrase, “(Name of book) touches me__________.”
- Write to us about which one still inhabits you. We’d love to hear!
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