Silverstein has written a number of children's books that may easily be favorites among adult readers as well. Each presents us with a simple story with an underlying message. Young students will probably not go much farther than understanding the basic story, but with a background in interpreting Silverstein's poems, a deeper reading is possible. In some of his stories, there are elements of poetry within the narrative, especially in
A Giraffe and a Half. Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back
, the longest of the group, could be examined for its narrative elements as well as its message.
The Missing Piece
The Missing Piece Meets the Big O
appear to be simple little picture books, but they both contain messages about fulfillment and the importance of the search in life.
The Giving Tree
, probably his most popular book, tells the tale of a tree that will do anything to meet the requests of a small boy whose demands continue into old age. The tree feels joy only when she has met the needs of the boy.
I plan to read and discuss these five books with my students, somewhat along the lines of the discussion that revolved around Silverstein's poetry, but I don't have any plans to use them as motivation for student writing. If, however, they show a particular interest in pursuing any of these stories further, that interest will be encouraged.
was published, there was some criticism regarding the story's depiction of the all-giving female tree sacrificing everything, even herself, to the demanding male. She was happy only when she had fulfilled his wishes. In an attempt to approach this issue, I will read the story without showing any illustrations and substituting the words "the tree" for the pronoun "she" and using "the child" every time the story says "boy" or "he." Upon completion of the story students will discuss their feelings about the story. "What is your opinion of the tree and the child? Do you agree with what each of them did? Explain. How would you have acted if you were the tree and/or the child? Do you know any people who are like the tree and/or the child?" Students will then be asked what they think regarding the gender of the tree and the child and why they have made their particular choice. They will then explore whether they believe this situation exists in real life. Reference will be made to the comments they made regarding people they might know who are similar to the characters. Finally, we will explore the topic of whether they believe the relationship between female and male as it exists in
The Giving Tree
is appropriate and should be accepted as inevitable.