Literary Cannon Does Not have An Age Requirement

The early American children’s text that I chose to compare was Mary Had a Little Lamb by Lowell Manson (1831) and the contemporary piece of children’s literature: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (1964).

Mary Had a Little Lamb by Lowell Manson (1831) is about a little girl who had a pet lamb whom she loved as much as it loved her. One day she decided to take the lamb to school with her even though she was not allowed to. The lamb was a huge distraction in school, therefore her teacher kicked him out of the school. After patiently waiting nearby for Mary to be dismissed from school, the lamb expressed its love for Mary by running into her arms with joy.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (1964) was written over a century later, yet it can be considered just as important to the literary canon as Mary Had a Little Lamb. These two pieces of literature are both poems that are used for children’s pleasure (as well as adult pleasure). Aside from this, they both have one major thing in common: the expression of a powerful relationship between a human being and something that is not human and ends in a positive joyful way.  They both have a theme in which there is some sort of separation between the two and they end up together at the end of the story. Mary leaves her lamb because she needs to attend school and her lamb is not allowed in. Towards the end of the story she ends up happily with the lamb anyway, “Till Mary did appear; And then he ran to her, and laid his head upon her arm… What makes th’ lamb love Mary so!” The boy in The Giving Tree repeatedly leaves the tree throughout the story but ends up in a similar happy situation towards the end of the story also, “‘Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest.’ And the boy did. And the tree was happy.” Both Mary Had a Little Lamb and The Giving Tree both play a significant role in the literary canon. They both can be crucial factors to the development of children today and their understanding of relationships and being grateful about what they have.



Silverstein, Shel, Shel Silverstein, and Publishers Row. The Giving Tree. New York: Harper & Row, 1964. Print.


“Forgotten Chapters of Boston’s Literary History.” LOWELL MASON, “Mary Lamb” [music], in Juvenile Lyre, Or, Hymns and Songs, Religious, Moral, and Cheerful, Set to Appropriate Music, For the Use of Primary and Common Schools, Boston: Richardson, Lord & Holbrook; Hartford, H. & F. J. Huntington,. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.