Earlier this month, the U.S. Postal Service announced the addition of seven new Forever Stamps to its 2022 slate. One set features members of a mariachi band, celebrating the importance of mariachi music in Mexican American culture. Another shows American flags on barns throughout the U.S., a nod to farmers’ tradition of painting flags on their barns.
There’s also a stamp to honor Shel Silverstein, whom the USPS described as “one of the 20th century’s most imaginative authors and illustrators.” The illustration chosen for the stamp depicts a small, overall-clad boy about to catch an apple—part of the cover art for Silverstein’s book The Giving Tree. That title is printed on the stamp, too, as is Silverstein’s name.
The Giving Tree has long been one of Silverstein’s most polarizing works. Published in 1964, it follows the story of a tree who gives whatever she can to the boy she loves as he grows up—her apples to sell, her branches to build a house, and so on—until she’s nothing but a stump for him to sit on in old age. Though some readers consider it a heartwarming (albeit melancholy) tale of selflessness and unconditional love, others have felt it portrays an unhealthy or even abusive relationship.
As WRAL.com reports, reactions to the stamp have been varied. Some people have taken to Twitter to express excitement about a stamp inspired by a beloved childhood favorite. Others are lamenting that the USPS hadn’t chosen a different Silverstein work to commemorate.
Still others have pointed out the irony behind the stamp’s illustration: The Giving Tree herself isn't shown, once again unrecognized for her contributions. Twitter user @haikuhedgehog captured the sentiment in a poem of their own:
“The Giving Tree gave.
Selfless, not even her stump
was put on her stamp.”