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The Giving Tree

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

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 12 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 12 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

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 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

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
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
Adult Written byGamer4056 June 7, 2018

The Giving Tree Parent Guide

This book is good and very touching. It shows people what a tree could do if it knew how to talk and hand stuff to people in a friendly way. It is a little viol... 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?

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.

Talk to your kids 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

For kids who love pictures and rhyming

Our editors recommend

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