Tag Archives: Trees


Jacques GoldstynWhen Bertolt popped up in my periphery, I knew I had to read it, especially in the wake of The Giving Tree. (In case you missed it, you can see my thoughts about Silverstein’s book here.) Like The Giving Tree, Bertolt also features a relationship between a (nameless) boy and the titular tree – I hesitate to say his tree, even though he has named it, because although I think he feels an affinity with it and identifies it as his own, it’s less a matter of belonging or ownership so much as the fact that it is with this particular tree and not another that he has a special connection – but veers into a completely different direction altogether, and it’s both heartwarming and sad because no sooner do we feel the complete love of this boy for the tree do we learn that the tree can no longer give him what his memories hold: Bertolt is dead.

In light of this, the boy meditates upon the death of his friend, Bertolt, the big oak tree, and is thrown into a sort of controlled turmoil: were Bertolt to have been struck by lightning or cut down, at the very least, the boy says, he would know for sure. His excitement during the winter served to sadden him even further once spring came around, and the fact that he never realized when exactly it was that Bertolt’s life quietly ended only compounds the realization that this year, this spring, will be different from all the springs past. The little boy thinks about what he can do to remember Bertolt and all the fun times they had together – getting to know the inhabitants of the big tree, climbing up to people-watch the inhabitants of the city – and comes up with a beautiful idea to give the tree its foliage once more.

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The Giving Tree

Shel SilversteinThis is pretty topical, given Mothers’ Day just passed, right? (On which note, happy belated Mothers’ Day!)

I read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree for the first time recently upon recommendation, and I’m still (a couple of weeks later) extremely conflicted regarding how I feel about it. Going by the comments on Bibliocommons, it seems like this is one of those books that people feel very strongly about, whether they love it or hate it – I would say this is one of the signs of a good book – and I’m no exception. I love it, because it is such a powerful book, and the story and the illustrations complement each other incredibly well to create a multilayered reading of the story. However you read it, it is still incredibly sad. But reading this for the first time as an adult, I can’t help but view it as being problematic in some ways. Shortly after I read the book and waffled over what my verdict was (I really, genuinely, love it while at the same time finding it troubling, in part precisely because it’s such a childhood favourite), an article on LitHub came up in my feeds, the author of the article being someone who loved the book in her childhood and recently reread it, only to view it now with distaste. So I’m glad I’m not the only one (though perhaps I shouldn’t be glad, because if it was, it could have just been me).

I’m pretty convinced that many children who have been read this book or who claim it is their favourite book probably have some inkling, in their heart of hearts, that there is something insidious about it, and that, viewed from the perspective of unconditional parental (read: maternal) love, the story barrels downhill, exacerbating the damage it does to your heart. That being said, I might just be ascribing a cynicism to readers that does not actually exist – it’s a… I’m not sure “touching” is the right word, but I’ll settle for calling it a touching story, and that might just be that. Anyway, I’ll do my best to outline why under the cut.

(I know it’s a childhood favourite of many, and I don’t want to rock too many boats*, but either way, I am exhorting everyone to either read The Giving Tree for the first time or reread it once more. We’ve got it in book format, kit format, as another kit (not sure what the difference between the kits is, exactly), as an e-book, in Korean, and in Hebrew. So there’s no reason to not pick one up, or to put yourself in line!) Continue reading

The Hidden Life of Trees

what they feel, how they communicateDid you know:

1.Many trees have pretty shady parenting techniques (literally). Their offspring grow up closeby, under the shadows of their parents, so they can spend hundreds of years under their parents’ thumbs. It’s for their own good, of course, and in tree years, a hundred or so years isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things.

2.Trees can send out messages to one another via airmail (e.g. “DANGER! GIRAFFE ALERT! GIRAFFE ALERT! Inject your leaves with bitter tasting compounds!” or something along those lines – I don’t speak tree.)

3. Humans micromanaging the growth of new forests in order to allow them to become old growth forests in the future does more harm than letting nature do its course, the way we do it. (This appears to me rather obvious.)

AND SO MUCH MORE (under the cut).

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