Wooster author’s new children’s book responds to Shel Silverstein’s divisive ‘The Giving Tree’

WOOSTER, Ohio – Marcy Campbell penned her new book “The More You Give” in response to Shel Silverstein’s popular, divisive children’s book “The Giving Tree.”

Published by Knopf, Campbell’s new picture book arrived on Tuesday, Aug. 2, featuring colorful illustrations by Francesca Sanna.

“The More You Give” focuses on ideas around delayed gratification, kindness and family – a marked departure from themes of giving and taking that dominate the story in Silverstein’s 1964 classic. (If you haven’t read it, “The Giving Tree” follows a relationship between a tree and a boy, where the tree progressively gives more and more parts of itself away to the boy, until it’s reduced to a stump.)

Campbell didn’t read “The Giving Tree” until she was a new mother picking out books for her daughter, stumbling upon a copy at a garage sale.

“I had a very negative reaction to it, because the boy doesn’t do anything,” Campbell said. “He does all the taking, and it just wasn’t the kind of message I wanted my kids to have. I thought, maybe someday, I can write a response to this.”

In “The More You Give,” Campbell subverts topics in “The Giving Tree.” Here, instead of taking from one tree, multiple generations of a family plant more trees in the field around their home and pass on traditions. When some family members pass away, what’s left behind is a legacy of love, made physical by the lush forest surrounding them.

The idea clicked in Campbell’s head at a writing conference when a speaker mentioned a proverb: “Plant a tree that you’ll never see the shade of.”

“If you’ve ever planted trees with kids, the first question a kid has is, ‘When is this tree going to get really tall?’ They start thinking about, ‘When is this tree going to be useful to me?’” Campbell said. “But if you’re planting an acorn, oaks take an especially long time to grow. It’s multiple generations in the book before they end up with this forest.”

“The More You Give” adds to Campbell’s writing career, marking her fourth children’s book release. Originally working in public relations, Campbell eventually earned a graduate degree in creative writing and got her start writing essays and short stories.

It wasn’t until she became a mother that she started writing for children. Campbell published her first kids’ book “Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse” in 2018. Two other books followed in 2021: the picture book “Something Good” and the middle-grade story “The Rule of Threes.”

“There weren’t picture books in my home when I was growing up; it wasn’t until I became a parent that I became exposed to this wonderful world of children’s literature,” Campbell said. “I did my own crash course in reading all the things I missed and all the new things that were coming out… I was filling my home with picture books and started studying it and I wanted to try it myself.”

Campbell will celebrate the release of “The More You Give” with an Aug. 6 book launch event at the Wayne County public library.

Find more information about her work at marcycampbell.com.

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