It feels like ages ago that I wrote this book. If you’ve followed this blog, you know that publishing moves slowly. I remember exactly where I was when the sale became official, at my son’s 5th grade band concert, just before everything shut down.
And I remember exactly when I decided I needed to write a book like this someday, more than 10 years ago, after returning home from a garage sale where I’d picked up a copy of “The Giving Tree” for my toddler daughter. I was already building her a collection of books, wanting to give her what I never had as a kid (we had just a handful of books in our home; reading was not especially encouraged), and when I saw that iconic green cover, I snatched it up.
Here’s the thing: I’d never read the book before that day. Oh, I guess it’s possible a teacher read it to me when I was young, but I had zero recollection of ever hearing the story until that day. As a new mom, I could not believe anyone would want to pass along the message of selfishness at the core of the book. As a new mom, I couldn’t help but see that, metaphorically, I was supposed to be the tree, giving endlessly without a word of thanks or appreciation. As a person who cares about the Earth and everything on it, I couldn’t help but see the callous treatment of nature with no thought for future generations.
I put the book on a shelf thinking, maybe someday, I’ll write a response to this.
Fast-forward to 2018, with my first picture book (“Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse”) on the shelves, and a notebook of ideas in my hand as I attended a regional Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) meeting. I had been thinking about a story that would show how a love of nature gets passed down through generations. I was also thinking about how taking the long-view, of any problem or issue, is so hard, especially for children. And then, a speaker mentioned this Greek proverb: Plant a tree you will never see the shade of.
I’m sorry to say, I have no idea what the rest of that speaker’s talk was about. I was busy scribbling in my notebook, making connections, about planting trees, and familial love, and inter-generational environmentalism, and swings and forts and acorns, and yes, “The Giving Tree.”
My working title was “The Giving Boy,” which I knew from the start I’d need to change. The book is not a parody, though I did take one line from the original, and twist it to “And they were happy.” But the source of the happiness comes from caring for each other. “The More You Give” became the new title. It’s my hope that kids will read the book and think about the gifts they have to give, the ones perhaps family and friends have shared with them, and the impact those gifts can have on the world. With a few acorns, multiplied, they can grow a whole forest.