Shel Silverstein was a hell of a writer. I mean, I thought so even before George RR Martin told me about "Uncle Shelby's ABZs" - a fantastically rude and incredible hilarious parody of a kid's book.

One of the marks of a great writer is that they can sell terrible things so well that you don't even notice that you're buying them. Take "The Giving Tree," a Silverstein book that should be a cautionary tale but is generally read as a suggestion.



In "The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries," Topher Payne rewrites the ending of "Giving Tree" to unpick the expert, Silversteinien knot of shitty ideas tied so well that you can easily miss them.

Not only is this hilarious stuff, it's also incredibly, VISCERALLY satisfying, as the tree tells off the boy for being such a colossal asshole.


This isn't just a masterclass in self-care and boundary setting.

It's also as strong an argument as you could ask for in favor of fair use, and the presumption that critical remix is - and always should be - fair use. Thankfully, this is a principle that the US Supreme Court has upheld.


Payne's work is a fundraiser for the Atlanta Artist Relief Fund Story Time. If you enjoy it and you're able, please consider a donation to them in support of Atlanta's artists in crisis.


@pluralistic I was given a copy of the Giving Tree before I even got pregnant by a friend of my husband's and I am 1000000% going to paper over the pages of the book with this version thanks for sharing!

@pluralistic anyone can do the telling off, but what happens after - and how it's actually thought through - is what makes this so great!


I prefer the original, interpreting it as a warning against egoism, against taking advantage of others, and even against capitalism itself.

This new rendering is too literal in its message for me.

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