Did you read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree as a child? Do you remember how it made you feel? The children’s book turns 50 this year, so theoretically, a few generations have had their chance to soak in the bittersweet melancholy of Silverstein’s prose. Acknowledging the anniversary, The Giving Tree was featured in this week’s Bookends column of The New York Times, which invited two contributors to reflect on the book’s history and meaning [ht DJ via Twitter]. That’s no surprise, of course–the book is well loved and continues to be a children’s classic. But what I was shocked to discover (maybe I’m just out of the loop?) was the existence of a minority that hates the book, vowing never to put it in a child’s hand. Google “Giving Tree Hate” to see what I mean. Anna Holmes, NYT columnist and founder of Jezebel, starts us off:

tumblr_l4xv64UUB31qzpwi0o1_500I never liked Shel Silverstein’s spare, twee little book, not the first time I read it, back in the late 1970s, or the second time, in the mid-1980s, or the third time, just a few weeks ago, in preparation for this column.

I’m not alone. A 2010 post about “The Giving Tree” in this paper’s MotherLode blog, “Children’s Books You (Might) Hate,” attracted more than 300 comments. A passionate and very vocal minority of reviewers on sites like Amazon and Goodreads seems to find the story an affront not just to literature but to humanity itself. “Most disgusting book ever,” said one. “One star or five, there is no middle ground,” declared another. “The Nazis would have loved it,” one man raged, proving that everything up to and including beloved children’s picture books will eventually fall prey to Godwin’s Law — that as an online discussion grows, so does the likelihood that someone or something will be compared to a Nazi.