Updated on 09.29.09

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: The Giving Tree Edition

Trent Hamm

For her eighth birthday, I gave one of my nieces the book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. It’s one of those books that, in my mind, is a masterpiece of children’s literature, one that I wish every child everywhere would have a chance to read. I actually have a (fairly long) list of such books that I intend to read to my own children as they get older and I’ve managed to cross off a few of them already (like Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak).

What books do you consider to be essential children’s literature? Give me a few titles – they can be anything from picture books to young adult books. I’m curious to what books you’d consider absolutely mandatory for your children to read.

10 Things Warehouse Clubs Won’t Tell You I’m linking to this one because I’ve never seen such a blatant hatchet job. Among the reasons: it’s dangerous because twice in twenty years objects have fallen off shelves and hit customers, and it might take “several minutes” for them to inspect your receipt before you leave (I’ve never had this process take more than a minute, not even the weekend before Christmas). The author of this article has an axe to grind, to the point of undermining what might be a good point or two. This is, quite simply, an example of over-the-top borderline slander that anyone should be able to see through, and it discredits SmartMoney and Yahoo! Shopping for posting it. (@ yahoo via free money finance)

Ten Things I Will Teach My Children About Money This is the type of thinking that’s worthwhile for every parent to embark on. Even if the lessons that each parent considers important and worth teaching aren’t the same, the fact that a parent puts importance on such lessons is vital. Plus, sharing such thoughts gives other parents food for thought. (@ consumerism commentary)

Is the Key to Wealth Found in a Book? The answer is simple – knowledge is only one piece of the puzzle. Taking action on that knowledge is substantially harder. Most people have some semblance of an idea as to how to become a distance runner, yet most people aren’t distance runners. (@ millionaire mommy next door)

Why Good Writing Matters – And How You Can Improve Your writing ability is often the first thing people have to judge you on – and if you don’t bother to write well, that creates a negative first impression. (@ dumb little man)

Determining the Perfect Amount How much is too little? How much is too much? Getting a good sense of both helps you to regularly use the perfect amount, which can save you a lot of money and time. (@ unclutterer)

When Is It Okay to Finance Fun? I’m much more in favor of saving up for fun than financing fun. Financing fun means that, after the fun is over, you undo the joy you gained by having to face down the debt. By delaying gratification, you don’t have the downside of debt, just the upside of the fun. (@ get rich slowly)

If Craigslist Cost $1 If Craigslist cost $1, I would actually use it. As it is now, with free postings, it’s a cesspool of nonsense. This model really does work – see Ask Metafilter for proof. (@ seth godin)

Want to Hear More About the Business Side? Given the number of times I’ve been asked about how I earn money doing The Simple Dollar, I’ve considered writing a complete article along these lines to explain it. Is this of interest to you guys? (@ i will teach you to be rich)

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  1. b says:

    I really do hate to come off as sounding so negative in two posts so close together, but “the giving tree” always struck me as a manual for how to have a co-dependent relationship or on how to be taken advantage of by people that are only using you and not appreciating you.

    I mean, really, I understand that the tree loves the boy, but perhaps if the relationship is all one-sided, then it is not a healthy relationship? Or do we advise our children to continually give to those that are taking advantage of them, until they are stripped bare and only a decaying stump of their former glory, meanwhile the person that used them up is off enjoying their life?

    I just don’t get it. I am sure that other people have a different take than me, though. Perhaps I will learn something in the ensuing comments…

  2. Alison says:

    I had a good chuckle at that warehouse club article too! I was expecting an intelligent weighing of pros and cons, not of falling cat litter!

    Books I love buying for new moms: Llama Llama Mad at Momma, Goodnight Moon, Where the Sidewalk ends

  3. Michael says:

    Just a few from my childhood:

    1. The Giver, Lois Lowry
    2. Love You Forever, Robert Munsch
    3. Berenstain Bears, Stan & Jan Berenstain

    Am I the only one who thought The Giving Tree was depressing?


  4. Tori says:

    Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst: It showed me that life was not easy or fair through things like gum in one’s hair and kissing on tv.

    Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan: It was the first historical book I ever remember enjoying.

    And I have a different take on The Giving Tree than B. The message I took away from that book was not to take advantage of others, be they animal, vegetable or mineral. Everyone has limited resources to give and you need to give back.

  5. Julia says:

    Bearenstein Bears (probably misspelled) are so great! I also loved the Little House on the Prairie series.

    And yes, I am curious about how you make money on the blog. I would find that post very interesting and informative.

  6. BD says:

    On the article “10 Things Warehouse Clubs Won’t Tell You”: As someone who works in a warehouse store, I can say some of those points are valid…especially #6. Our store really is a small zoo… There are entire flocks of birds living in the rafters, plus creatures of all sorts make their way through the store at some time or another. I’ve seen mice, rats, anoles, dragonflies, spiders, geckos, frogs and even a CRAYFISH in our store. I still boggle at how or why the crayfish was wandering the aisles. But this doesn’t lessen the shopping experience any and the animals *generally* don’t hurt the merchandise.

    Essential Children’s Reading (or at least IMHO):
    1. The Phantom Tollbooth
    2. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
    3. Most of the Judy Blume books for young girls
    4. The Little House on the Prairie series
    5. The Chronicles of Narnia series
    6. Love You Forever
    7. Where the Sidewalk Ends.

    Honestly, while I loved The Giver series, I think they’re a little intense for some kids. Really depends on the age of the kid, and how mature they are (as in the case of all books.)

    I never like The Giving Tree. It always creeped me out and still does, probably for the same reasons “b” stated in comment #1.

  7. T says:

    My mom gave me a copy of The Giving Tree when I was a kid and (I never had the heart to say) I hated it! It’s depressing and has no hopeful vision of the future. I read it once and put it on a shelf.

    She meant it as a picture of her love for me, I’m sure. *sigh*

  8. Johanna says:

    Is anyone surprised that I find The Giving Tree to be incredibly sexist? I mean, the tree is (personified as) female, and the human character is male. She gives him everything she has, from the fruits of her labor to her body (!) itself, simply because he wants it, without regard to what she wants herself. And the reader is left with the impression that this is a good thing – that this is what women are supposed to do for men.

    My favorite books when I was a kid were Winnie the Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner, and the associated poetry books (When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six).

  9. lauren says:

    I think every child should be familiar with the writings of Dr.Suess. Such style.

    Chronicles of Narnia
    For boys books from G.A. Henty
    An allegory series: Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resitance, Tales of the Restoration
    The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques (these last 2 mentions make fabulous reading to your children series!)

    Check out Lamplighter Publishing – great stuff there!

  10. Hope D says:

    The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Ferdinand the Bull by Munro Leaf, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott Odell, Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes, Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, Heidi by Johanna Spyri, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. . . . and all the books already listed except Berenstain Bears. The father always looks like an idiot. My kids do enjoy them though. Little Critter books by Mercer Mayer are easy to read and remember so kids can “read” them to you. Little bear books are very sweet. I love books by Maurice Sendak. Richard Scarry’s books are great. The can be a visual feast.

    My family loves books. We homeschool in a literature rich approach. We use Sonlight. They sell great books. It is a Christian Company but has 80% regular books. Before I bought from them, I used their catalog to find great books. The catalog is free and describes the books in detail. It is a great resource.

  11. Brandon says:

    My son is 2, and his current favorite is “The Little Engine that Could” – we’re reading it to him from an old copy from my own childhood.

  12. Amanda says:

    In addition to the many other good books already mentioned, I would like to add The Gammage Cup by Carole Kendall. My fifth-grade teacher read it to the class along with The Hobbit and James and the Giant Peach. I also highly recommend The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. The latter I consider excellent 20th-century literature. For younger children, mine enjoyed Millions of Cats. We still on occasion repeat its keynote phrase “hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats” and then have a good laugh.

  13. Carrie says:

    Have to add my vote for “Love You Forever.” It really is the sweetest book.

  14. George says:

    I think the library for youngest readers has been covered by previous posts.

    For gradeschoolers (3rd-6th grade):
    – The Pushcart War
    – Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
    – The Hobbit
    – The Phantom Tollbooth

  15. Holly says:

    When my son is older I hope he’ll enjoy both the Chronicles of Narnia and then the Golden Compass series. We have the Giving Tree because I adore Shel Silverstein but I find it depressing and I’m not sure what the message is. To me it seems to say “it’s ok to take and take and take from someone without regard for their feelings” and that isn’t a message I want to give him. We’ve only read it together once but we often read his poetry collections.

  16. Melissa says:

    My family has always called ‘The Giving Tree’ ‘The Taking Boy’. It shows such an abusive and dysfunctional relationship.

  17. Lauren says:

    I think the different interpretations of The Giving Tree are what make it such an excellent book for children. It presents such a wonderful opportunity for parents to read and discuss its themes with their children. While I always felt sad for the tree, I look forward to reading this book to my kids and hearing what they think of it and why.

  18. Tara says:

    I love hack editorials. I am not the hugest fan of warehouse club stores, but I came away from that article with the idea that the upper managment of warehouse clubs is responsive and responsible, and that the stores aren’t that bad. Am I the only one? Seriously – come back to us when Costco starts selling babies.

  19. Amy says:

    Off the top of my head, I would say “The Giver” by Lois Lowry and “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White.

  20. Wendy says:

    I really like the Prydain Chronicles by Loyd Alexander- Book of Three, Black Cauldron, etc.

  21. Liz says:

    Several of my favorites as a kid have been mentioned already… but one that hasn’t been mentioned is Harriet the Spy! I loved that book and still love it today, almost 20 years later.

  22. Laura in Seattle says:

    I’d have to add A Little Princess to the book list — I first read it when I was eight and some of the lessons in it have stayed with me my whole life.
    For older kids, the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle are absolute essentials.
    Also for younger kids, any and every book by Roald Dahl. The Twits, The Witches, Matilda — I know people in their 20s and 30s who still light up when I mention those books. :-)

  23. Tyler says:

    I think of The Giving Tree as more of a childen’s book for adults. It seems to be a very polarizing work with most people either thinking its a terrible book because it shows a one-sided, abusive relationship as being acceptable and the others thinking its amazing because it illustrates what can happen when we abuse a giving relationship.

    I lean towards the latter, but feel like the whole point of the book was to allow the reader to interpret the message on his or her own.

    The fact that it catalyzes the discussion makes it a worthwhile book on its own, in my opinion.

  24. Jess says:

    I am a children’s bookseller, an avid reader, collect kids books, and have 3 children. I love Shel Silverstein’s poetry for children but I am not exaggerating when I say I despise “The Giving Tree.” I know it is very popular and many people think it is wonderful but I think calling it “The Taking Boy” (as Melissa said above) sums it up perfectly. But to each his own, right?

    I do however have a bunch of favorites, some of which are a bit under the radar so might be new to you (I’ll try not to repeat any of the other really good suggestions from other commenters):

    picture books:
    Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
    Ish by Peter Reynolds
    The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant
    Flotsam by David Wiesner
    Owl Moon by Jane Yolen (excellent daddy/daughter
    Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
    Old Turtle by Douglas Woods
    Tale of Three Trees by Angela Hunt
    Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
    Sylvester & the Magic Pebble by William Steig
    Frog & Toad books by Arnold Lobel
    George & Martha by James Marshall
    the “Frances” books by Russell Hoban
    Harold & the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
    Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
    (consistently good authors not mentioned
    above include Eve Bunting & Kevin Henkes)

    older kids:
    most of my favorites have already been mentioned, except for the wonderful “Anne of Green Gables” series. I still re-read that every year or so.

    I could easily go on and on with this one… obviously! There are just so many wonderful kids books out there, and they are a gentle & fun way to reinforce so many important concepts. The ones I mentioned are not only my favorites, but my kids’ favorites as well. Which is kind of the point! Also, I have to mention that a children’s librarian is always a wonderful resource for good ideas.

  25. Emily says:

    You are Special – by Max Lucado

    My Kindergartener just finished reading it in school and he totally got the meaning of it – blessed my heart beyond measure.

  26. Tina says:

    To the wonderful titles already mentioned, I’d add:
    Anything by E.L. Konigsburg
    The “Good Dog, Carl” picture book series by Alexandra Day.
    King Bidgood’s in the bathtub, by Audrey Wood
    For teens: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
    The sequel to Harriet the Spy: The Long Secret

  27. Advicehound says:

    James and the Giant Peach by Rald Dahl is one of my all time favorites. Our librarian, Ms. Tilson, read this to us when I was in elementary school and I remember thinking, ‘Even when things are bad, have hope because something unexpected and good can be right around the corner’. My family had some problems when I was a kid and I think the idea of optimism I got from this book helped me along then and later in life. I also like The Little Prince by Antoine de Sainte-Exupery.

  28. lisa Allen says:

    Pretty much the huge majority of books mentioned I would second, esp. The Phantom Tollbooth, Judy Blume books,The Hobbit, and the “Little House on the Prarie” series. Don’t discount the more pulp fiction books either(Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, the 3 Investigators,the Happy Hollisters,Harvey comics, etc.)I’m reading a book right now, Parents Who Read and Kids Who Don’t,which encourages adults to let kids pick out what they like, the idea being that they will migrate to the good stuff if they learn to enjoy reading in the first place…

  29. Johanna says:

    @Tyler: If The Giving Tree was intended as a cautionary tale, I think it fails. If it were immediately obvious to all readers that the tree’s actions were self-destructive, not noble, and that the boy’s actions were selfish, wrong, and horrible, that would be one thing. But not everybody sees that – a lot of people apparently see it as a relationship worth emulating, as evidenced by many of the reviews on Amazon and many of the co-dependent relationships in our society.

  30. Kevin M says:

    Dr. Seuss – Oh The Place You’ll Go is great. It’s uplifting but also shows kids it’s OK to fail. Very appropriate for our current society, IMO.

  31. In addition to the many that were mentioned previously:
    Goodnight, Moon
    The Cat in the Hat
    The Magic Treehouse series

  32. Fenton says:

    Recommended Reading:

    The Giving Tree is a must. I find it interesting that people don’t get the message.

    Others include:
    1. Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
    2. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
    3. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
    4. Sees Behind Trees by Michael Dorris
    5. The Princess and the Goblin & The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald
    6. The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin

  33. b says:

    I would love to hear what message that you think the book is imparting, Fenton. Do you see the relationship as one worth emulating or do you see it as a cautionary tale? Do you see it as something else? Allegorical somehow?

    It is just odd that you comment that “people don’t get the message” and them fail to provide the message to us. How exactly are we to “get” it then?

  34. AnnJo says:

    My favorites growing up were Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Heidi, Swiss Family Robinson, Robin Hood, Little House on the Prairie series, Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Danny Kaye’s anthology of children’s stories (can’t recall the name right now). And unlike many of today’s children’s books, I can still read these with enjoyment as an adult. My nieces and nephew enjoyed many of the stories from Bill Bennett’s Book of Virtues anthology. And the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales have their place, as long as followed by something upbeat.

  35. dee says:

    I know previous posters have mentioned Dr Seuss but I’d like to put my vote in for:

    The Sneetches
    The Lorax

    My almost 4-year old loves these stories and we have started to talk about the messages that they convey (sneetches are sneetches regardless of what they look like and environmental consciousness respectively).

    Also, for the very young, I always buy new moms and dads a box set of board books by Sandra Boynton. Anything by her is amazing but our particular favorite is But Not the Hippopotamus. It used to be the book that lived in the diaper bag and would be read endlessly on subway trips to and from daycare. Now that she’s a preschooler she really likes to ‘read’ them herself. They have wonderful rhymes and the repetition is great.

  36. Merinda says:

    Clown of God-by Tomie dePaolo…actually all his books are good, but that’s the one that really stuck with me.

    Little House books
    Redwall series

  37. Meg says:

    The last of the really great whangdoodles
    The girl with the silver eyes

  38. jc says:

    I love so many suggestions in this thread, especially the two Seuss books mentioned immediately above. Let me offer two other read-aloud books w/ great illustrations that get less mainstream attention:

    Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema

    Read aloud by James Earl Jones in the very first season of Reading Rainbow. It’s in the form of a poem like “the House that Jack Built” and tells the story of a young boy who seizes the opportunity to end a drought by piercing a cloud with an arrow. An authentic Kenyan tale of hope with a young African male hero.

    The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry

    My local library has an amazing over-size copy of this. A man walks into the rain forest to cut down a huge tree. Drowsing in the heat, the animals begin describing their part in the ecosystem. Was it all a dream? He decides to let the tree stand. A great “realistic” companion to The Lorax.

  39. Joanna says:

    For very little babies, Pat the Bunny has been a classic. As a girl, I LOVED reading Little Women aloud before bedtime. My mom and I curled up in bed together & I read to her. Great memories I hope to repeat with my (future) children.

  40. fairydust says:

    I can’t think of any kids books that haven’t already been mentioned except for probably my all-time favorite series (the first books I went back and read multiple times) – Dr. Doolittle by Hugh Lofting. Other than those, I definitely second anything by Dr. Seuss, any Judy Blume books, and the Chronicles of Narnia.

  41. Debbie M says:

    I’ll add Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.

    In general, I don’t think any book is mandatory for anyone.

  42. Rosa Rugosa says:

    My sister and I really loved all the Beatrix Potter books when we were little.
    The Eloise books are also terrific, and I still get a kick out of them as an adult.
    I’m currently reading a book called Unwind, by Neal Shusterman, intended for young adults, but I think it’s a great read for adults as well.

  43. Lisa says:

    As a teacher, I’d like to add the Enchanted Forest books (starting with Dealing With Dragons) for a good look at stereotypes for older elementary kids. For my kindergarteners, I love Mushroom in the Rain, Bear Snores On (and the other Bear books) and many of the Jan Brett books. For my young sons, Make Way for Ducklings and Have You Seen My Duckling? are two favorites, along with The Giant Jam Sandwich and How the Sun Was Brought Back to the Sky.

  44. Steve says:

    “Citizen of the Galaxy” by Robert Heinlein. It may be a bit advanced for children under 10. I have never found a better book for showing us that you can’t always judge people by their appearance.

  45. Ramona says:

    Don’t forget the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary!

  46. Shevy says:

    I’m personally not a big Shel Silverstein fan and I loathe Roald Dahl. I could barely stand it when my kids had to read him in school (much like I loathed being forced to read Thomas Hardy in high school, but I digress).

    Books for Babies & Toddlers

    Love You Forever
    Goodnight Moon
    Dr. Seuss books
    Winnie the Pooh

    And all the young kids I know adore anything by Robert Munsch, particularly books like “Smelly Socks” or “Down the Drain”. His books are all pretty over the top, with lots of impossible happenings. Not literature, but funny in a weird way.

    And for all that I recommend his book “Love You Forever” for the song the mother sings, the underlying message (a layer down from the obvious one that mothers love their kids forever) is pretty creepy. I mean, she sneaks into his room at night to hold him, even when he’s a grown man who moved out to a place across town (maybe to keep his mother at arm’s length?). Then she climbs a ladder and breaks into his house to hold him and rock him while he sleeps. Seriously stalkerish.

    Books for Older Children (from 6 or 7 if you’re reading to them on up to teens and some books would not be suitable for the younger group)

    Anything by Louisa May Alcott
    Anything by L M Montgomery, not just the “Anne” books. My faves are “Jane of Lantern Hill” and “Magic for Marigold”
    Anything by E Nesbit, particularly her Psammead series (CS Lewis was among the writers she influenced)
    The Narnia Books (CS Lewis)
    Mary Poppins
    Peter Pan
    Little House on the Prairie books
    The Coral Island
    Swiss Family Robinson
    Jane Eyre
    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
    Harriet the Spy
    The Phantom Tollbooth
    Wrinkle in Time

    A lot of these have already been mentioned, some multiple times. What I find interesting is the people who raved about books I hated, like James and the Giant Peach. And, probably, some people will hate some of my picks. Some of them are very fantastical, others are stories of a bygone era.

    I also loved all of Robert Heinlein’s juvenile novels, like Red Planet, Podkayne of Mars, Citizen of the Galaxy, Have Spacesuit Will Travel, etc. but his adult novels, even classics like Stranger in a Strange Land, are not for kids.

  47. mtn girl says:

    For older children my kids loved: The Secret Garden, The Jungle Book, Eragon and the Dinatopia series of books.

  48. George says:

    – The Mouse and the Motorcycle
    (dang, how could I forget Ralph in my earlier list?)

  49. Rosa says:

    I am actually listening to Henry Huggins on CD right now, checking it out to see if it’s as wonderful as I remember before I commit to having it on a long car trip – and it is! It’s also making me think a lot about what was considered standard for kids when my parents were kids – Henry is riding the bus alone in 3rd grade, for one thing, and when his mom needs her canning jars back she just says “I need the jars and I told you to do something about all those fish!” and leaves the how up to him.

    One of the joys of having a kid is rediscovering the children’s section of the library – Louise Erdrich and Tamora Pierce have written excellent children’s books since i was a little kid, and so did Terry Pratchett (Only You Can Save Mankind!).

    My son still loves Goodnight, Gorilla at age 4, and we just discovered another Rathman picture book – Officer Buckles and Gloria.

  50. I’ll try to stick to ones that haven’t been mentioned already.

    The Railway Series, and be sure it’s the originals, not the numerous Thomas the tank engin books that are mostly based on the newer TV series. The TV series, while based on the books, lacks a lot of the charm of the originals. (I was addicted to Thomas the Tank Engine stories on PBS when I was young.)

    The BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Matilda. All by Roald Dahl. I read the BFG a lot from about age 9 to age 12 or so. Our library didn’t have either of the other two unfortunately.

    When they get into young adult books…

    The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by AVI, very well written, includes and Appendix with information about the real ship the one in the book is based on.

    Carry on Mr Bowditch, Jean Lee Latham. (Another sailing story. Encourages people to not give up, and that hard work can overcome bad circumstances if you’re willing to work with the opportunities that you you have.

    About 14 is when I read “The Complete Sherlock Holmes”… So it’s a possibility as well?

  51. lu3 says:

    Definitely The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. The illustrations are by Jules Pfeiffer. It will appeal most to kids over the age of 10 because there are so many puns and allusions in the story which will be lost on smaller kids. Adults will also find this tale interesting.

    Milo has to rescue the Princesses Rhyme and Reason to restore order to the Land of Wisdom. He meets many memorable characters along the way.

  52. Amy From Canada says:

    Every one of Richard Scarry’s books is an absolute treasure. They are some of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen. I also love the “Little Miss” and “Mr.” books (Little Miss Giggles, Mr. Tickle, etc.).

    Some other favorites for children and tweens:
    – Anything and everything by L.M. Montgomery (she wrote tons of books and stories in addition to Anne of Green Gables)
    – My Side of the Mountain
    – Little Women
    – Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
    – Beautiful Joe
    – Black Beauty
    – The Black Stallion books
    – All James Herriot books
    – All Gordon Korman books

  53. Ashley says:

    I tuned into NPR during a segment that vilified THE GIVING TREE as the most damaging, twisted piece of literature ever printed. Remember, the tree is always referred to as female. And she is dismembered through the years to satisfy the whims of her “boy” until she is reduced to a stump upon which he can sit as an old man.

  54. Ashley says:

    I tuned into NPR during a segment that vilified THE GIVING TREE as the most damaging, twisted piece of literature ever printed. Remember, the tree is always referred to as female. And she is dismembered through the years to satisfy the whims of her “boy” until she is reduced to a stump upon which he can sit as an old man.

  55. Natasha says:

    Dogfish by Gillian Shields is a great book that carries (if you want to read it this way) a frugal message: make the most of what you’ve got. The illustrations are amazing, too!

  56. Nicki says:

    Aside from the great books already mentioned, the one book I couldn’t wait to buy for my kids to read was The Stinky Cheese Man (And Other Fairly Stupid Tales). It’s silly, and full of surprises. It was fun for me to read it as an adult and have another way to look at books, and I’m looking forward to unpacking it so I can read it again to my kids.

    Fenton, I’m also interested in the message you see people missing in The Giving Tree. You know, that book still makes me cry at the end? I’m 31. Cry every time.

  57. Fenton says:

    @b #33:

    “I would love to hear what message that you think the book is imparting, Fenton. Do you see the relationship as one worth emulating…”

    On the part of the tree, absolutely. The tree, throughout everything, loved the boy and sacrificed herself (to use the gender in the book) for the boy, not once questioning whether or not she should give to the boy. If there was ever anything worth emulating, that would be it. Not that we should give and give and give until there is nothing left of ourselves, but that we should give freely and without requiring anything in return. To give out of love.

    “…or do you see it as a cautionary tale?”

    On the part of the boy, absolutely. The boy took the tree for granted throughout his whole life, and we’re not even sure if he realized it in the end. He just took and took and took. I think it’s obvious to anyone that what the boy did was wrong (as you and others have pointed out), even if he didn’t know what he was doing.

    “Allegorical somehow?”

    I see an allegory in there, sure, albeit religious in nature. The Tree could be viewed as God, and the boy Humankind. Humankind asks and asks and asks, and God freely gives because She (still using Silverstein’s gender) loves Humankind. But Humankind is never fully satisfied, even after everything God has given. But God is just happy that Humankind always returns in the end. God is happy to give of Herself to make us happy. But after a long time of being away, Humankind finally returns to God, and it is there that Humankind is finally able to take rest.

    But that’s just one interpretation.

    To me, it’s all about the love the Tree gives. It’s a selfless, self-sacrificing, neverending love. The message, to me, is in that type of love. If the world would give a little more, maybe there would be fewer selfish boys and more fruit-bearing, loving trees, and maybe the world would be a better place.

  58. Helen says:

    For your daughter – Anne of Green Gables. Anne is an amazingly strong female character who overcomes adversity (that is only alluded to) to become a kind, loving, day-dreamy yet ambitious young woman. It’s a bit of luck that she goes to live at Green Gables, but the person that she grows into comes about as a result of the love that she receives there as well as her own strong personality. I still go back and read the entire series every few years – I love Anne in a way that I love no other fictional character. The fact that the books are set in a time and place far removed from the life of your daughter is so irrelevant – there are so many universalities within the book.

  59. Johanna says:

    Isn’t it interesting that Anne of Green Gables, with its strong female central character, is assumed to be a book only for girls, whereas a book whose female character is abused, mutilated, abandoned, killed, and then held up as a role model is for everybody?

    Slightly off topic: I was never all that impressed by Roald Dahl’s books for children (of the ones I’ve read, I thought they were just ok), but I really enjoy the short stories he wrote for adults. He was a master of plot twistiness.

  60. Anna says:

    A few recommendations that I loved as a child, although not all were favorites of my parents, all are books I will buy if I have children:

    Gilberto and the Wind – Marie Hall Ets
    Roger Podger’s Upside-Down Day – Betty Ren Wright and Jared D. Lee
    Prince Bertram the Bad – Arnold Lobel
    Pierre – Maurice Sendak (Part of the Nutshell Library set, I actually love the whole set)
    Tikki Tikki Tembo – Arlene Mosel

  61. Rosa says:

    Two picture books we’ve read recently that have frugality themes:

    Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, by Simms Taback – the overcoat wears out and he makes it into a jacket, the jacket wears out and he makes it into a vest…it’s based on a yiddish folk song and has the musical notation in the back, so we played it on the piano too. We check this one out of the library every month or so, and the artwork is beautiful and full of visual jokes.

    Pink, by Nan Gregory – I liked this one more than my son did, so we’ve only read it a few times, but it’s about a little girl who wants a doll and does errands & saves up all her money and…someone else already bought the doll. And then her parents try to find a (cheap) way to make her feel better. I thought the art was kind of blah, but the way it’s written is just gorgeous.

  62. Laura says:

    Where the Red Fern Grows – Wilson Rawls

  63. Lenore says:

    I love The Velveteen Rabbit! How to Care for Your Monster is great but probably not in print. The Giving Tree sounds morbid and wrong.

    That warehouse article had plenty of salient points and described things I’ve actually seen happen at Sam’s. Why DO they check your receipt on the way out? It made me feel like a criminal for going there. And the savings? Not so much. I can do just as well at dollar and closeout stores and not wear myself out in the process.

  64. deRuiter says:

    Craigslist is a great resource for legitimate selling, and super active. If you know the history of Craigslist, which is a marvelous American entepreurial success story, you would know that it IS free as Craig’s gift to the (now world) community, financed only by Craigslit real estate ads in New York and San Francisco. You’d also know that Craig makes a lot of money, which he deems ENOUGH money for his and his employees needs. I love Criagslist, it’s a useful tool. It’s incredibly easy NOT TO GET SCAMMED by dealing locally, and not falling for the variations of the Nigerian Bank Scam which are invariabley so transparent it makes me embarassed for the sender, althought I guess I should be more embarassed for the ones who fall for it through greed. Don’t like Craigslist, don’t use it, but why try to force me to pay for a useful service? As to child’s books, go look for those by Albert Payson Terhune, the collie books. Terhune stresses honesty, upright behvior, kindness to animals, truth telling, moral behavior. Terhune’s books are great action tales for animal loving children, and adults.

  65. Di Di Ross says:

    The Secret Garden is a must….teaches a spoiled, sickly child how to become a joy to others…my own son is terminally ill, and I read this to him early on his illness. He has been an absolute delight, and he has no desire to be so demanding.

    Also, the Henry Huggins series of books is terrific for 1st grade and up…I still enjoy reading about Henry and Ribsy, Beezus and Ramona, and all the rest of the gang.

  66. Carol says:

    Many of my favorites have already been listed. Would like to add:
    Misty of Chincoteague
    Benjamin West and his cat Gremalkin
    both by Marguerite Henry
    I also love tall tales, Swamp Angel is one about a girl from TN.

  67. Michelle says:

    I’d really like to hear more about your Craigslist aversion. I personally think Craigslist is a great tool. I’ve found many things for great prices on Craigslist. I’ve also sold tons of things and made money on the site. Is this like Aldi where you’ve had a bad experience and vowed never to return? Or are you just basing this off what you’ve heard?

  68. michele says:

    A picture book I loved reading to my preschooled age children was Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault. It’s an alphabet rhyme. I haven’t read it years, but I can still hear the rhythm in my head just as I type the title!

  69. f1owerprincess says:

    I love children’s books and agree with many people on this list. Post #22 especially.

    Tikki Tikki Tembo
    The Secret Garden & A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
    Redwall series by Brian Jacques
    Enchanted Forest series by Patricia C. Wrede
    Golden Compass trilogy by Philip Pullman
    Earthsea series by Ursula K. Leguin
    Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carrol

    Here are a few of my other faves:

    The Tripod series – When the Tripods Came, White Mountains, City of Gold & Lead, Pool of Fire – by John Christopher
    Boxcar Children mysteries
    Time Warp Trio series (my neices & nephews love these – especially “Your Mother was a Neanderthal”)
    Wayside School series by Louis Sachar (these are great to read aloud. My neices & nephews love me to read them, especially chapter 2 of “Sideways Stories from Wayside School”)

    So glad to know that other people love kids’ books and that you are teaching yours to love literature!

  70. f1owerprincess says:

    I forgot to say that Wayside School books are great for everyone. I read them aloud to my grandma when we were travelling across country in her RV when I was a kid and she loved them. They are so funny!

  71. Nancy says:

    I would have to add The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. It is a role reversal of the typical fairy tale. In this story the girl rescues the boy!

  72. rhymeswithlibrarian says:

    For older children (and adults), another big vote for Anne of Green Gables. And for the other Montgomery fans here, click on my name to link to a song about Anne that you might enjoy.

    Fenton said about The Giving Tree:
    “The tree, throughout everything, loved the boy and sacrificed herself (to use the gender in the book) for the boy, not once questioning whether or not she should give to the boy. If there was ever anything worth emulating, that would be it. Not that we should give and give and give until there is nothing left of ourselves, but that we should give freely and without requiring anything in return. To give out of love.”

    I agree that the book’s intended message is that the tree’s style of loving is to be admired and emulated… but I don’t agree that this is a good message. The tree DOES “give and give and give until there is nothing left…”. I don’t think that self-destructive martyrs are the kind of lovers the world needs. I think you can give more love, and the love that really benefits the beloved, if you are a strong, whole person with thoughts and boundaries.

    Am I the only one who finds “Love You Forever” kind of creepy? The pictures where mom is crawling into the room of the sleeping child, or breaking into her adult son’s house, creep me out. If I were her son, I’d get some better locks… or a restraining order.

  73. EsH says:

    I love, love, LOVE “The Phantom Tollbooth” as a book to read to slightly older children. It can be read over and over and the children understand more of the lessons and humor each time.

    Dr. Seuss books are also classic, as well as the Berenstain Bear books.

    For the potty-training set, “Once Upon a Potty” is awesome.

  74. Lisa says:

    oh boy — lots of these have been mentioned, but my list includes (and I regularly give these as gifts!)

    pretty much everything by Maurice Sendak
    The Madeleine books
    The Babar books
    Curious George
    The Phantom Tollbooth
    The Narnia Series
    Madeline L’Engels’ Wrinkle in Time trilogy
    Nancy Drew
    Hardy Boys
    Tom Swift
    Pippi Longstocking
    Everything by Richard Scarry
    James and the Giant Peach (and all of Dahl’s books)
    Freddie the Detective
    Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series
    The ‘Harold’ books by Crockett Johnson
    Dr. Seuss
    Harry Potter series
    Ursula Le Guin’s EarthSea series
    David Edding’s Belgariad series (both of them)
    Little Women
    Mrs. Frisby and the rats of NIMH
    Beatrix Potter books
    So You Want to be a Wizard? (Diane Duane)
    The Secret Garden
    The Black Stallion books
    Misty of Chincoteague

  75. Jen says:

    Oh my goodness, this is making my heart explode–I want to go straight to the children’s section of the library!

    Has anyone mentioned the Boxcar Children series yet? (Only the original 19 books, please!) I think Trent would enjoy them as much as the kids would. :-)

  76. Ann says:


    I hope people haven’t already mentioned these, but some of my favorites when I was in grade school include:

    the E.B White books – Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, Trumpet of the Swan

    Harriet the Spy

    all of the Little House books (I reread them as an adult and was re-amazed!)

    Thanks for the topic and letting me relive my childhood!

    Ann from Maryland

  77. Fenton says:

    Also add:

    The Indian in the Cupboard books & the Wrinkle in Time books.

    @rhymeswithlibrarian #72:

    “The tree DOES “give and give and give until there is nothing left…”. I don’t think that self-destructive martyrs are the kind of lovers the world needs. I think you can give more love, and the love that really benefits the beloved, if you are a strong, whole person with thoughts and boundaries.”

    That’s pretty much what I said. :) Indeed the tree DOES continuously give, but my point wasn’t for us to emulate that, but the TYPE of love continuously given: a selfless, self-sacrificing love that expects nothing in return but the good that it imparts.


  78. Esther Ziol says:

    Besides the ones mentioned, my son (now 16) loved Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, which I also loved as a child.

  79. CaGirl says:

    Love all the great books listed above! One I had to name since I didn’t spot it in the list was the Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. The books are a bit racist, but you have to remember that they were published by a British author in 1902. I grew up hearing these and love them to this day – especially The Cat That Walked By Himself.

  80. L says:

    I love The Giving Tree, and so does my class of preschoolers. I don’t think it’s a book you just read – there needs to be some discussion between adult and child about the relationship there and the love. Actually, any book will be more educational and enjoyable for kids if they can talk about it and express what they think is going on.

    My kids also love anything by Eric Carle, and I loved anything by S.S. or Roald Dahl, but there are some AMAZING new authors and books out there. I would check with a teacher and see what she is using, or check out the best sellers.

  81. Georgia says:

    So many of these books are great and some I have never heard of and am glad there is so much reading to be done in the world today. I read to my children and their father through high school. I have a good reading voice and we went through so many different kinds of books – kids, sci fi, romance, true adventure, mystery, comedy. Some of our favorites were the series of books written for adults by Thor Heyerdahl on his amazing adventures around the world.

    My favorite of all time book of fiction would be Swiss Family Robinson. I have read it at least 50 times in the past 62 years since I was in the 5th grade. It never bores me. I also still read Louisa May Alcott and the Harry Potter series. I guess I am still a kid at heart.

    How about the Baby Sitter’s Club’s Little Sisters?
    Or the Scholastic books of history, such as What Were You Doing on ____date, Patrick Henry? Just get kids in the habit of reading and give them great variety, so they can develop their own taste.

  82. Georgia says:

    Also a comment on Sam’s Club, etc. Since when is waiting in line for 15 minutes a drain on our resources? I go and give myself plenty of time to window shop, taste the goodies, visit with others, get a soda or lunch, buy, and check out. It is a fun experience and I enjoy it. I think in this day and age everyone seems to think that shopping, driving, etc should be instantaneous ventures. Why? Is our time that valuable? Go, save, enjoy. Attitude is half the battle.

  83. reulte says:

    …. taking notes ….

    My (boy’s) favorite picks include some of the above — Sandra Boynton, Dr. Seuss — as well as some action graphic novels (aka comic books).

    I plan to start reading him Prydain Chronicles and Swiss Family Robinson soon, then into King Arthur and Robin Hood. He particularly likes science books — the little Golden Guides (Weather, Stars, Reptiles & Amphibians) and the DK ones. Currently, he really like reading about spiders (shudder!!) and I hate picking up a book with a life-size bird-eating spider on the cover!

  84. Beth says:

    I’ll add my vote for the Paper Bag Princess! One of my other favourites that I always buy for baby showers is the Runaway Bunny. The artwork is fabulous :)

  85. J says:

    The problem with the “If Craigslist cost $1” article is that the country is littered with failing newspapers that DID charge $1 for classified ads.

  86. Cheryl says:

    When the kids were little, we read them Uncle Wiggily’s Story Book, Rabbit Hill, & Boxcar Children. When they were older, Danger on Panther Peak, & Pilgrims Progress. As a kid I enjoyed Big Red stories (a boy and his dog), the Black Stallion books (a boy and a horse), Pippi Longstocking, Dr. Doolittle, Anne of Green Gables, and any book with horses in it. We used to read to the kids several nights a week, even when they were reading on their own.

  87. Jenny says:

    just a heads up, the warehouse article now links to an article about makeup.

  88. real estate says:

    Nice post. A simple, informative, catching one. Thanks for posting.

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