HomeBooks by AgeAges 4-8The Giving Tree: Shel Silverstein: A story about giving and taking

The Giving Tree: Shel Silverstein: A story about giving and taking

By Luisa LaFleur, The Children’s Book Review
Published: December 21, 2009

The Giving Tree

by Shel Silverstein (Author)

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Paperback: 64 pages

Publisher: HarperCollins (October 7, 1964)

Source of book: Bookstore

What to expect: Relationships, giving and taking

Not so long ago, I bought The Giving Tree on a visit to a great NY bookstore. I’d seen it before but never read it and thought it might be nice to read to my children. I based my decision to buy it on two things–I had a notion that it was an important book in the canon of children’s literature and I really liked the cover: a simple line drawing of a boy and a tree on a bright green background. Fast forward a few months and it has become one of the three or four books that *must* be read before bedtime. So I’ve now read it some 60-70 times, but here’s the strange thing: I’m still not quite sure what the moral of the story is. I realize that in this Internet age with sites like Wikipedia and Amazon and any number of blogs and review sites, I *should* be able to figure it out. But I haven’t yet and this makes writing a review a little more difficult than usual.

The story is about a little boy who loves a tree and as he grows he asks for more and more things from the tree. The tree loves the little boy and gives everything she can. Although the tree willingly gives to the boy, he never seems to be fulfilled and she grows increasingly sadder. I won’t give away the ending but it’s poignant and tender and the more I think about it, really sad for a children’s story. What I take from the story, and what I try to subtly convey to my kids when I read it, is that giving is good and important. And we should give what we can because it makes us happy to do so.

At this time of the year, I think it’s important to emphasize the “giving” nature of the holidays and not so much the “receiving” part. The Children’s Book Review is taking the message to heart and our kind and generous leader has decided to take part in the Pajama Program (http://www.pajamaprogram.org/) a non-profit organization that provides new pajamas and new books to children in need in the United States.

Leave us a comment: What does The Giving Tree mean to you and your family?

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Luisa LaFleur reviews bilingual books for The Children’s Book Review to help parents choose the best books for their budding linguists. She was born in Argentina, attended school in NYC and speaks three foreign languages–Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. Formerly an editor in NYC, Luisa is currently a stay-at-home mom to two little ones.

  • in the late 70s when i was in high school, “the giving tree” and “the velveteen rabbit” were the two books we teens felt had deeper meaning than just being “for kids.” but even then we were cynical about the messages. on the surface (and to adults) it looked like we were being sophisticated in our appreciation for “classics” of our childhood, but it was no secret that we all felt “the giving tree” was about the nature of greed and how happiness is never achieved by taking advantage of others.

    as a bookseller in a children’s bookstore i saw many an adult purchase “the giving tree” or wanting something like it “with a good moral story.”

    as for “the velveteen rabbit,” we knew better than to value ourselves in accordance to how much others loved us.

    December 21, 2009
    • Great Feedback

      October 29, 2018

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