The Giving Tree is one of Shel Silverstein's best known classics.  It stands out because of its green color, whereas many of his other children's books are sold with black and white covers.  A little known fact about Shel Silverstein is that he felt paperback books devalued stories.  As a result, all of his books remain as hardcover editions, with few exceptions.  Although this does mean his books cost a bit more than your average paperback book, they remain great books to give as gifts for children both young and old.  Children will love to read these by themselves as soon as they are able, but will love reading them with their parents before then.  You will enjoy them just as much.

Here is a quick guide to The Giving Tree and five of Silverstein's other popular books.

The Giving Tree and Other Stories by Shel SilversteinCredit: Covered under fair use as determined by US Copyright LawThe Giving Tree

Shel Silverstein published this classic in 1964.  It is the story of a boy and a tree.  Or rather, it is the story of a tree and her love for a young boy.  Whatever the boy needs, whether it is shade or branches to play in, the tree is happy to give it.  As the boy grows up and his needs change, the tree obliges, even to the point of telling the young man to chop her down to a stump so that he can use the wood to build a boat.  At the end of the story, the boy returns as an old man, needing the stump for a place to rest, the tree is once again happy to give.  

Many questions arise from this story, such as whether the boy is too greedy or whether the tree was too self-sacrificing.  You and your child will be able to discuss this short story for a very long time.

Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic and Falling UpA Light in the AtticCredit: Covered under fair use as determined by US Copyright Law

All three of these publications are poetry collections, written and edited by Silverstein.  Besides funny and fantasy tales, other poems deal with issues important to children, such as how to get out of doing the dishes.  

Where the Sidewalk Ends was published in 1974 and the audio edition was released nine years later.  In 1984, it won a Grammy Award for Best Recording For Children.  A Light in the Attic was published in 1981 and has won several awards, including:

  • 1983 - Garden State Children's Book Award
  • 1984 - William Allen White Children's Book Award
  • 1987 - Recognition of Merit Award from Garden State Children's Book Award Center for Children's Books
  • Buckeye Shoestring Book Award

The 1996 publication of Falling Up was one of Silverstein's last books to be published prior to his death in 1999.  It was recognised in 1996 as the recipient of the Booklist Editors' Award.

Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot BackCredit: Covered under fair use as determined by US Copyright LawLafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back

Published in 1963, this was Silverstein's first children's book.  This novel tells the story of a young lion's encounter with a hunter and his gun.  As first captivated by the hunter, the lion (who later changes his name to Lafcadio) decides instead to eat him, but he can't swallow the gun, so he keeps it and practices until he meets a circus man and runs away to join the circus.  Lafcadio becomes famous and starts to become more like a man than a lion.  Eventually he becomes bored with this life and goes on a safari to Africa.  When he remembers he is a lion, not a man, he puts down his gun and walks away.  Disguised by its hilarity, this story's message is about being true to yourself.  Not as popular as his short stories and poems, you may not have read this story.  If you haven't, you can order it from Amazon by clicking here.

The Missing PieceThe Missing PieceCredit: Covered under fair use as determined by US Copyright Law

This story was published in 1976.  This silly story is about a circle creature that is missing a piece of itself and goes on a quest to find it.  However as soon as it discovers the missing piece, it realises that it enjoyed looking for it more than actually having it.  Adults often read a lot more into this your your child will, such as whether a relationship will make an individual whole.  However it can also be read from the perspective that you may not want to know everything and should be content with yourself.  The Missing Piece Meets The Big O is a sequel published in 1981 from the perspective of the missing piece.

Although this guide covers only a corner of Silverstein's complete catalogue, it is a good start to your collection.  And don't worry about the hardcover format, you won't want to let these books out of your library.  For other great ideas on books your children will enjoy, have a look at these articles: