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Shel Silverstein The Giving Tree

Last updated: June 21, 2019


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.

We looked at the top Children's Books and dug through the reviews from some of the most popular review sites. Through this analysis, we've determined the best Children's Book you should buy.

Product Details

In our analysis of 99 expert reviews, the Shel Silverstein The Giving Tree placed 1st when we looked at the top 13 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.

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

Expert Reviews


What reviewers liked

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
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.
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.
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.
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.

What reviewers didn't like

But the tree can also be seen as a masochistic female who doesn't know how to set limits.
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.
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.
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