Shel Silverstein The Giving Tree

Last updated date: June 21, 2019

DWYM Score
10.0

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We looked at the top 1 Children's Books and dug through the reviews from 6 of the most popular review sites including Good Reads, Medium, Common Sense Media, Michigan Law Review, Mental Floss, This Is My Truth Now and more. Through this analysis, we've determined the best Children's Book you should buy.

Overall Take

Shel Silverstein’s "The Giving Tree" is a unique tale that shares the lesson of being selfless and helping others as much as possible. The story teaches young children how to be happy when giving to others without expecting anything in return. However, it can also be seen as a story about a boy who never learns his lesson, and keeps taking from the tree without appreciating its gifts. In our analysis of 75 expert reviews, the Shel Silverstein Shel Silverstein The Giving Tree placed 1st when we looked at the top 10 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.

Editor's Note July 2, 2019:
Checkout The Best Children’s Book for a detailed review of all the top children's books.

Expert Summarized Score
8.3
6 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
9.6
3,263 user reviews
Our Favorite Video Reviews
What experts liked
- Good Reads
The Giving Tree is a great picture book in the sense that it teaches children the meaning of love and how it is a two way street.
- Medium
October 12, 2016 | Full review
Some see selfless love as beautiful, even if it's taken to an extreme. It's easy to imagine the tree as a mature, patient mother dependably being there for her child throughout his life.
- Common Sense Media
The first time I encountered The Giving Tree, my grandson actually did most of the reading. He enjoyed the pictures, understood the plot, and finished the book with a smile. He understood that the tree was happy, even though she was left with nothing, save for the love and company of the boy. We enjoyed this story on our first reading; even for a six-year-old child, the book raised so many questions. It demands rereading, again and again.
- Michigan Law Review
Positive interpretations of this story paint it as a parable of unconditional love: When it first hit shelves, The Giving Tree was a hit with Protestant ministers, who applied Christian themes to the book.
- Mental Floss
January 11, 2019 | Full review
For young children, it’s a lesson in how not to be selfish. How to learn the concept of give and take. How to be a friend and not abuse that relationship.
- This Is My Truth Now
What experts didn't like
But the tree can also be seen as a masochistic female who doesn't know how to set limits.
- Common Sense Media
But according to some critics, the book depicts an abusive relationship, with the tree literally allowing herself to be destroyed to keep the perpetually dissatisfied boy happy while receiving nothing in return.
- Mental Floss
January 11, 2019 | Full review
Many argue it’s a dark tale about a boy who never really learns his lesson, even in the end when goes back one final time to ask for one more thing — a place to sit before he dies.Yes, that’s an over-exaggeration of the story, but depending on how/when you read the book, your perception of it could change.
- This Is My Truth Now

From The Manufacturer

To say that this particular apple tree is a "giving tree" is an understatement. In Shel Silverstein's popular tale of few words and simple line drawings, a tree starts out as a leafy playground, shade provider, and apple bearer for a rambunctious little boy. Making the boy happy makes the tree happy, but with time it becomes more challenging for the generous tree to meet his needs. When he asks for money, she suggests that he sell her apples. When he asks for a house, she offers her branches for lumber. When the boy is old, too old and sad to play in the tree, he asks the tree for a boat. She suggests that he cut her down to a stump so he can craft a boat out of her trunk. He unthinkingly does it. At this point in the story, the double-page spread shows a pathetic solitary stump, poignantly cut down to the heart the boy once carved into the tree as a child that said "M.E. + T." "And then the tree was happy... but not really." When there's nothing left of her, the boy returns again as an old man, needing a quiet place to sit and rest. The stump offers up her services, and he sits on it. "And the tree was happy." While the message of this book is unclear (Take and take and take? Give and give and give? Complete self-sacrifice is good? Complete self-sacrifice is infinitely sad?), Silverstein has perhaps deliberately left the book open to interpretation. (All ages) --Karin Snelson

Overall Product Rankings

1. Shel Silverstein The Giving Tree
Overall Score: 10.0
Expert Reviews: 6
2. Robert Munsch Love You Forever
Overall Score: 9.9
Expert Reviews: 5
3. Maurice Sendak Where the Wild Things Are
Overall Score: 9.5
Expert Reviews: 6
4. Craig Smith The Wonky Donkey
Overall Score: 9.3
Expert Reviews: 6
5. Eric Carle The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Overall Score: 9.2
Expert Reviews: 6
6. Emily Winfield Martin The Wonderful Things You Will Be
Overall Score: 9.2
Expert Reviews: 9
7. Adam Rubin Dragons Love Tacos
Overall Score: 9.1
Expert Reviews: 9
8. Giles Andreae Giraffes Can’t Dance
Overall Score: 9.0
Expert Reviews: 9
10. Marcus Pfister The Rainbow Fish
Overall Score: 8.3
Expert Reviews: 8

An Overview On Children's Books

  • The most important element in choosing the perfect children’s book is the story. What is the book about and how does it relate to your child and your family? “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch is about the unconditional and timeless love between a parent and child, so it’s a very relatable story that many families are familiar with. On the other hand, “The Wonky Donkey” by Craig Smith is about a donkey with three legs and the adventures he has. “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein is about a little boy and his relationship to a tree throughout the course of his life. “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak is a classic about a little boy named Max who wreaks havoc at home while dressed in his wolf costume. He is so naughty that he gets sent to bed without dinner, only to discover that his room has transformed into a mysterious jungle, where he meets some wild things.
  • For some parents, it’s important for children’s books to have important life lessons that they can teach their kids. Reinforcing lessons through books helps children to remember them and embody them. The lesson in Robert Munsch’s “Love You Forever” is about the importance of family. No matter where you go in life or what happens to you, your family will always be there to love you. In “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein, the lesson is somewhat ambiguous. It’s not clear whether the book is about unconditional and selfless giving, as it can also be seen as a story about a boy who doesn’t learn his lesson. “The Wonky Donkey” by Craig Smith finds the humor in all things, while “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak teaches kids how to use their imaginations when they are feeling big emotions.
  • It’s no secret that a child’s attention span isn’t very long. Some children can sit for books that take ten or more minutes to read, while others want to read books that only take a minute or two. “The Wonky Donkey” by Craig Smith is a quick and enjoyable read, while Robert Munsch’s “Love You Forever” and Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” are a little longer. “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak has under 350 words, but it can take a while thanks to the fanciful illustrations.
  • Consider the format you want to buy your book in. There are many more options than just paperback books these days. Depending on the ages of your kids and the way you like to read, you may choose a different option for format. “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch is available as an ebook, hardcover, paperback, audio CD and board book. On the other hand, “The Wonky Donkey” by Craig Smith is only available as an ebook and paperback. Similarly, Shel Silverstein’s”The Giving Tree” is only available as an ebook and hardcover. “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak can be bought as a hardcover, paperback, multimedia CD and audio CD.
  • Kids can be rough with their books, so price may be a purchasing factor, especially if you have to replace books often. “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch is available for under $10 in hardcover, while Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” can be found for under $12 in the same format. Paperback versions of “The Wonky Donkey” by Craig Smith are available for under $5 while “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak is available for under $8.

DYWM Fun Fact

Children’s books have been around for several centuries, well before the printing press was invented in the 1400s. In fact, some of the first children’s stories that used both words and illustrations, and were created to be enjoyed by young readers, are Japanese illustrated scrolls that were said to be made in the 12th and 13th centuries.

However, the tradition of storytelling itself dates much further back all across the world. Even though those stories were not written down or illustrated, parents have known the powerful effect stories have on children. Irish folk tales can be traced back as far as 400 BCE, while the tradition of oral storytelling for children reached its peak in Imperial China in 900 AD.

The Children's Book Buying Guide

Reading to young children is an activity many parents and caregivers love to do. For many families, reading is part of the daily routine. Many caregivers enjoy reading to kids before naptime and bedtime to help them relax and settle down. However, reading can be done at any time of day! It’s a perfect activity for sitting down during playtime or even while at the park or playground. Not only is it useful for bonding with your child, reading has many developmental benefits too.

Did you know that reading to children promotes brain development, social skills and verbal communication skills? Reading helps children to learn new sounds and understand new words within context. Books that are repetitive or have a rhyme or rhythm are particularly beneficial for helping children improve their verbal communication skills. By hearing certain sounds over and over again, children learn to mimic those sounds and words. The tempo of a book can help a child to memorize the lines and repeat them during the story and during playtime.

Books also help to stimulate a child’s imagination and grow their curiosity about the world around them. Stories help children to understand the difference between real and make-believe. Playing pretend is an integral part of growing up, and books help to encourage imaginative play activities. Children often impersonate the stories they learn through reading in their playtime activities. If you read a book about a dog running through the park, you may find that your child pretends she is that dog running through the park herself during her next playtime!

Books also help children understand transformative events, such as the birth of a new sibling or the death of a loved one. Books can help children learn the importance of developmental milestones, such as potty training or drinking from a sippy cup. They can teach children about important life lessons, such as how to share with others or how to take turns with friends. Stories also help children to verbalize complex emotions such as love, anger, sadness and confusion.

It’s never too early or too late to start reading with your child. While there are many developmental benefits to reading, nothing beats snuggling with your little one and reading a story you both love.