USPS announces 'The Giving Tree' stamp. Do they know what they've unleashed?

People have WILDLY different opinions on "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein.

I was excited to read "The Giving Tree" to my children when they were little. I'd read the Shel Silverstein classic so many times as a kid and remembered loving it. In my memory, it was a poetic story of a tree that gave selflessly, never expecting anything in return, and of the undying love she had for a little boy who eventually turned into an old man.

"And the tree was happy." It was sweet, I thought.

Then I read the book again as an adult and noticed some things I hadn't as a child. While I had focused on the generosity of the tree as a child, this time the boy-who-becomes-a-man stood out. Wow, what a selfish jerk he was. And the tree, while admirably willing to give selflessly, seemed a little too giving. Martyrdom for an important cause is one thing; sacrificing everything you are for a guy who uses you over and over and takes without any thought to your needs or well-being is entirely another.


I soon found out I wasn't alone in feeling conflicted about the story. In fact, "conflicted" is an understatement compared to what some people feel about it. Some say that it's the worst story they've ever read. Even some die-hard Shel Silverstein fans hate it. Others will defend it to their last breath as their favorite book of all time.

Publicist Eric Alper shared the news that U.S. Postal Service will be issuing a "The Giving Tree" forever stamp later this year, and the comments show how wildly people's opinions differ on this book.

Alper didn't share any commentary with the news. He just wrote, "The U.S. Postal Service will release a stamp to honor Shel Silverstein and his 'The Giving Tree' book in 2022."

But with the way people responded, you'd think he'd said, "Puppies are ugly and Paul Rudd is the devil."

People flooded the comments with their thoughts on the book, with many unleashing their fury over the book's premise:

"Ugh- this book keeps coming up! It’s a great representation of a manipulative, one-sided, narcissistic relationship. I can’t stand it."

"Nooooo! Not that! Anything but that! It's awful! A poor example! Bleah! Shel had so many great books. This is the only one I hate! I disagree with the modeling here. Very unhealthy! So sad."

"Hate that book. Teaches children how to not have boundaries. Love everything else by Uncle Shelby."

"Are you kidding me?!?! Let’s make a stamp celebrating how to be so selfish and keep taking until there’s nothing left to take. This was literally the worst children’s story ever written!!!!"

Others gave a bit less vehement responses, explaining exactly what their negative experiences with the book were:

"I picked this book up one day and started reading it to my kids, not knowing what I was getting into. And I found myself saying 'This boy is terrible!', after every page. And I looked at my kids and I said 'I love you, and I am so grateful for you, but you are going to grow up and take care of yourselves and you are not getting all my leaves.'"

"I do not understand why people love this book. On one side of the relationship there’s a someone who takes and takes and is perfectly happy for the tree to give all of itself while giving absolutely nothing in return. On the other side there’s the tree who literally destroys itself and only finds self-worth in sacrifice. It’s sickening."

Lovers of the book spoke their minds as well, sharing their perspectives that the book is about unconditional love:

"I am so excited about this stamp. As a kindergarten teacher, I read to my class several times every year. We would all have tears in our eyes by the end of the book!"

"All you haters have missed the point. The tree represents the parents. They give all they have to give for their children's success, and are brought the greatest joy and pain watching them grow and leave them."

"I love this book so much. As soon as I became a mom I understood exactly what was going on here. I’d give every last ounce of me to make my kiddo happy."

"This book is about sacrifice, and how the tree embodies nothing but love for the little boy. My 'Giving Tree' was my daddy, not because of financial reasons, but for his unwavering love for me."

"Wow! The comments are heartbreaking. This book is about unconditional love. I guess that’s been cancelled."

Interestingly, some people shared that they love the book precisely because of the problematic relationship they see in it:

"I love this book because it teaches a person what happens if he/she remains in an unhealthy relationship. In the end, both are sad."

"Maybe I’m alone in this but I always read it as a cautionary tale. Be careful how much you take from someone, someday you’ll learn that you’ve taken too much."

"I don’t hate this book. It is a cautionary tale. Teach your child that taking, taking, taking all the time will destroy the giver. (and the taker will lose their friend) Teach your child that while giving is good, too much is not healthy. Teach your child boundaries!!"

"I kinda noticed as a child, the person was kinda greedy and only visited when he wanted to take. As an adult leaving a narcissistic marriage, boom! Whoa! Good book tho. I'd honestly use this book to teach about it and how it's nice to give, but have boundaries."

One thing is certain: The book still has us talking after 57 years.

Perhaps the mark of a brilliant book isn't in teaching a clear lesson but in getting people talking. Different people take different things from stories, and good literature prompts discussion over those perspectives. It's not as often that we get this kind of debate out of a seemingly simple children's book, but Shel Silverstein had a way of tapping into adult complexity while writing for children, and he's certainly done it with "The Giving Tree."

Good for USPS for honoring Silverstein and his work with a stamp—and good luck with the can of worms it opened by choosing to do it with this particular book.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

"Veteran" mom and "new" mom parent differently.

When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

But soon, reality sets in and if they have more kids, they'll probably be raised with a lot less attention. As a result, first-born kids turn out a bit differently than their younger siblings.

"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

Keep Reading Show less

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

Keep Reading Show less

That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?

Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

Here are 22 responses with the most horsepower:

Keep Reading Show less