The Giving Tree

Book review by
Peter Lewis, Common Sense Media
The Giving Tree Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Classic, sensitive parable about selflessness.

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 12 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 12 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Shows a bit of the life cycle of a tree and a boy. 

Positive Messages

Some may view this tale as depicting a wonderful motherly love, while others may see it as a cautionary tale about the need to set limits or protect the earth's resources.

Positive Role Models & Representations

There's some debate over the precise role of the tree, but most young children will probably see her as a loving, giving, motherly figure.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, first published in 1964, is a sensitive parable that really hits an emotional button -- readers seem to either love it or hate it. Some see the tree's selfless love of a boy 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. But the tree can also be seen as a masochistic female who doesn't know how to set limits. Some might even read this as a warning about greedily using Mother Nature's resources. In any case, its an enduring classic that readers of all ages respond to.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byRoseReads October 25, 2019

Thought provoking

I love this book. It has so many take-aways. Postive and negative. Great book to read with your children to start a conversation about many topics.
Adult Written byLT579 September 22, 2018

Not for Children

This is not a children's book. I don't think the author ever intended it to be a children’s book. It deals with themes and ideas either beyond childre... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byJojo_010 January 14, 2019
I think this book is for ages 4+. For me I think this is one of the worst books I’ve ever read.I think this because for me I look in kids picture books as fun a... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byBrigidArmbrust July 14, 2018

What's the story?

THE GIVING TREE is a fable about giving (not always wisely, but deeply) and taking (often without thought but almost always with profound consequences). It follows the relationship of a boy and a tree, from the boy's childhood through old age. This is deservedly one of the bestselling children's books of all time. Both the text and the line drawings are like haiku in their potent simplicity.


Is it any good?

This fable's spare text and the expressive line drawings add to the beauty and solemnity of this story and focus its power. Author Shel Silverstein gives a thoughtful look at the cycle of life of the boy and challenges readers of all ages to think about how they sometimes take loved ones for granted. Many images will give readers an ache in their heart: the boy embracing the tree with his chubby arms, the adolescent leaning against the sheltering tree lost in thought. The tree, too, goes through stages: from leafy to ripe with fruit to branchless and, finally, to just a stump. Readers may find it truly moving or kind of sad. Little kids tend to find it a comforting model of unconditional love. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the message the author might be trying to send readers. Do you think it's a good one? Why or why not? 

  • Do you think the boy asks too much? Do you think the boy takes the tree for granted? Would you have behaved differently than the boy did?

  • Why do you think this book has been popular for so many years? 

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love pictures and rhyming

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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