A reader writes:
The readers who see the boy in The Giving Tree as a selfish little brat are exactly right, but that is the entire point of the book. It holds the mirror up to each little boy and girl who reads it.
I remember reading the book as a young boy and being just crushed with the realization that the tree was my parents and that I was the boy. Now that I’m a dad, I think I was right on. One of the searing truths of life is that we take so much more from parents than we give and, what’s more, we don’t realize how much our parents are giving.
When we become adults we begin to realize that many people in our lives view us as a means to an end, as a useful object. But not our parents – they continue to see us as an end in ourselves and continue to offer whatever they can. We continue to use our parents for support without fully reciprocating their love and support. I see The Giving Tree as an extraordinarily beautiful book because it doesn’t hold back from sharing that very painful truth about the world with children.
The Giving Tree is clearly a parable about parenthood, i.e true love. The irony of your readers telling their child to never to be a "tree" is that parents are "trees" themselves. Good parents love their children so deeply they willingly sacrifice to make them happy.
This entry from "Better Book Titles" is what I always think about whenever The Giving Tree comes up.
(Photo from the tumblr, Shit My Kids Ruined)