Give and Take

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
Give and Take Book Poster Image
Folksy tale, whimsical art teach value of give and take.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows a bit about farming, bartering, and trading, how apples grow, and how to make an apple pie. Also shows the challenge of decision making and the wisdom of adjusting after making wrong decisions. 

Positive Messages

Everyone benefits in the end from the lessons learned. Life works out better if you learn to think for yourself and  find a little give and take in each situation. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

When the farmer thinks for himself, he comes up with the perfect solution. He welcomes back the two little men who had led him astray, and they all share in the apple pie he has made. Even Take and Give learn that they need each other. 

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Give and Take, written and illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner Chris Raschka (A Ball for Daisy), reads like a classic folk tale. The language tells an engaging story, and is a joy to read aloud, especially when complemented by the whimsical, offbeat, almost messy, ink-and-watercolor artwork. Two tiny and rather pushy elf-like men in pointy hats, who definitely do not agree, give an apple farmer conflicting advice about what to do with his apples, and his life. In the havoc and unhappiness that follows, the farmer decides he should be careful about whose advise he takes. He comes up with his own solution, one that works out well for all. He tries a little give, a little take, and they all enjoy the results. And they each learn a valuable lesson about listening to and working with others. 

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What's the story?

In his apple orchard, a farmer learns a valuable lesson when he meets two different little elf-like men in pointy hats who give him bum advice. The first day, the little man named Take convinces him to trade all his apples for pumpkins, and he ends up making gallons of pumpkin soup. A bad move, since neither he nor his dog likes the stuff. The next day, after he boots Take out of his house, he meets up with Give. This little man also steers the farmer in the wrong direction by telling him to give his apples, and his opinions, away. As a result, the farmer finds himself alone and hungry. He kicks Give out and, as he begins to think about his situation, he hears loud squabbling in the orchard and finds Take and Give fighting over whose way is better. "Neither,"  the farmer decides. Combining a little give with a little take is the best solution.  He then trades some of his apples to the miller for flour, and in the end the farmer, his dog, Take, and Give all share in a delicious surprise that comes with their new found wisdom. 

Is it any good?

GIVE AND TAKE is a lightly humorous folk tale with a story that is engaging, thought-provoking, and enjoyable to read aloud. The artwork is fantastic, especially if you like less-than realistic, playful illustrations. Black India ink lines stretch around strong images that are dabbed artistically with subtle yet vivid watercolors. The apples are red red, the pumpkins various shades of orange, with a little green and gray here and there, all splashed against whatever white space remains on the page. The artwork alone will hold the imagination of young readers, and the story will spark plenty of discussion about what went wrong and what went right because of the farmer's decisions to take everything, give everything, and make his own decisions. Give and Take is one book parents won't mind reading over and over again, and kids will continue to love for a long time. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about decision making. How do you decide when different people give you conflicting advice? What happens if their advice doesn't work out for you? 

  • Why do you think Raschka draws such heavy black lines to outline his images? Do you think the almost blurry dabs of watercolor to fill them in look messy, or do they look free and playful? If the drawings were glossier and more realistic, would it change how you feel about the story? 

  • Did you notice the change in the farmer's ear? Why do you think Raschka added those touches?

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