The Giving Tree Book Poster Image

The Giving Tree

Classic, sensitive parable about selflessness.
Parents recommend

What parents need to know

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

There is a little debate over precisely the role of the tree, but most young children will most likely see her as a loving, giving motherly figure than anything else.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Silverstein's story really hits an emotional button; readers seem to either love this book or hate it. 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. But the tree can also be seen as a masochistic female who doesn't know how to set limits. (Or could the story even be a warning about greedily using Mother Nature's resources?) Still, there's little concern that the youngest readers will grasp much negative meaning from this sensitive parable.

What's the story?

Shel Silverstein's fable about giving (not always wisely, but deeply) and taking (often without thought but almost always with profound consequences) will stay forever fixed in your mind. It is deservedly one of the best-selling children's books of all time. Both the text and the line drawings are like haiku in their potent simplicity.

Is it any good?


The spare text and the expressive line drawings add to the beauty and solemnity of this story, focusing its power, and Shel Silverstein gives a thoughtful look at the cycle of life of the boy. The author challenges readers of all ages to think about how they sometimes take loved ones for granted, and 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, stumpy.

A classroom of 7-year-olds was unusually silent after reading it, although the silence didn't last long. Still, an impression had been made.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the message the author might be trying send readers and whether kids think it's a good one -- and why.

  • Do you like what the tree does for the boy?

  • Do you think the boy asks too much? 

  • Do you feel for the tree?

  • Do you think the boy took her for granted? Would you have behaved differently than the boy did?

Book details

Author:Shel Silverstein
Illustrator:Shel Silverstein
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date:January 1, 1964
Number of pages:60

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Adult Written byTanni December 6, 2008

I luv it

I really recommend this book.. That's really true and make me cry Luv it
Parent of a 2 year old Written byCigana_24 January 23, 2010

Great for all ages above 4, even adults

I came across this book as an adult and while the book is written for children, the message is a universal one: Selfless love. I couldn't help crying when I got to the end--Silverstein's gentle prose is poetic and inspiring. The book opens a forum for parents to talk to their children about responsible love, giving of self, Mother nature, etc. I plan on buying the book for my godchild when he turns 4; this way we'll be able to talk about the book's message.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written bykabahuss April 9, 2008

must have

Little tikes can read but it will take the older child to actually understand the message... I still cry when I read this one...