​​The Giving Tree Summary

The Giving Tree Summary
  • Book Name: The Giving Tree
  • Author Name: Shel Silverstein
  • Publisher: Harper & Row
  • Published Date: October 7, 1964
  • ISBN: 978-0060256654
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Pages: 64
  • Language: English
  • Genre: Children’s Literature, Picture Book
  • Subjects: Friendship, Selflessness, Nature, Growing Up

Book Summary: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

The giving tree summary: “In a world often consumed by self-interest, imagine a tree that embodies unconditional love and selflessness. Shel Silverstein’s beloved classic, ‘The Giving Tree,’ unfolds a tender tale of a remarkable friendship between a selfless tree and a young boy, inviting us to reflect on the essence of generosity, sacrifice, and the complexities of human relationships.”

The story revolves around a young boy and a tree who form a deep bond. The tree gives unconditionally to the boy throughout his life, providing him with shelter, fruit, and branches to play on. As the boy grows into a man, his needs and desires change, and the tree continues to selflessly give, eventually sacrificing everything it has for the boy’s happiness.

The central characters are the tree and the young boy. The tree is a nurturing and selfless entity that symbolizes nature’s capacity for unconditional love. The boy, initially filled with youthful exuberance, represents human desires and the ever-evolving nature of relationships.

“The Giving Tree” explores themes of selflessness, love, sacrifice, and the complexities of human nature. It prompts reflection on the nature of relationships and the balance between taking and giving. The story invites readers to contemplate the true meaning of happiness and the impact of our actions on those around us.

Shel Silverstein’s writing style in “The Giving Tree” is deceptively simple yet profoundly poignant. With sparse text and expressive illustrations, Silverstein conveys powerful emotions and timeless truths. His writing captures the essence of human relationships and evokes empathy and introspection in readers of all ages.

“As the final pages of ‘The Giving Tree’ unfold, Shel Silverstein leaves us with a bittersweet realization—the capacity for selflessness lies within us all. This heartwarming tale serves as a gentle reminder to cherish the unconditional love we receive and to foster a spirit of generosity in our interactions with others. Prepare to be moved by the profound simplicity of this timeless story, leaving an indelible mark on your heart.”

The Giving Tree: Main Character

“The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein primarily focuses on two main characters:

  • The Tree: The central character of the story, the tree is portrayed as a nurturing and selfless entity. It begins as a young and vibrant tree, always ready to offer shade, comfort, and companionship to the boy. As the story progresses, the tree continues to give unconditionally, even when it means sacrificing its own well-being.
  • The Boy: The boy starts as a young child who enjoys spending time with the tree, climbing its branches, and playing games. As he grows older, however, he becomes more self-centered and takes advantage of the tree’s generosity. The boy represents human nature’s tendency to consume resources without fully appreciating or reciprocating the love and care provided by others.

Key Characteristics:

  • The Tree: The tree symbolizes unconditional love, selflessness, and generosity. It embodies the idea of giving without expecting anything in return. Despite being gradually depleted and reduced to a stump, the tree finds fulfillment and happiness in providing for the boy’s needs.
  • The Boy: The boy undergoes a transformation throughout the story. Initially innocent and carefree, he becomes increasingly focused on his own desires and needs. He displays selfishness, taking the tree’s offerings without expressing gratitude or considering the consequences of his actions.

Relationships and Conflicts:

The story primarily focuses on the relationship between the tree and the boy, highlighting their evolving dynamics:

  • Loving Relationship: At the beginning, the tree and the boy share a loving and mutually beneficial relationship. The boy finds joy and comfort in the tree’s presence, and the tree finds purpose in providing for the boy’s happiness.
  • Conflict and Selfishness: As the boy grows older, he becomes more self-centered and takes advantage of the tree’s resources. The tree continues to give everything it can, even as the boy continually demands more without expressing appreciation or reciprocating the tree’s love.
  • Resolution and Sacrifice: The tree’s love for the boy remains steadfast, leading to a resolution where the tree willingly sacrifices itself to fulfill the boy’s needs, eventually providing a stump for the boy to rest upon.

The story showcases the themes of love, sacrifice, and the consequences of selfishness. It prompts reflection on the balance between giving and taking in relationships and the profound nature of unconditional love.

The Giving Tree: Plot Summary

Chronological Overview of Major Events:

  • Introduction:
    • The story introduces a young boy and a generous tree, who develop a deep friendship.
    • The tree provides the boy with shade and companionship, while the boy spends his days playing and climbing on the tree.
  • The Boy’s Demands:
    • As the boy grows older, his demands increase.
    • He asks the tree for apples to sell, and the tree happily provides them, sacrificing its apples to fulfill the boy’s desires.
  • The Boy’s Needs:
    • The boy eventually needs money, and the tree suggests that he sell its branches.
    • The tree selflessly allows the boy to take its branches to build a house, leaving it bare and empty.
  • The Boy’s Long Absence:
    • The boy leaves the tree for a long time, pursuing his own dreams and ambitions.
    • The tree patiently waits for the boy’s return, longing for their companionship to resume.
  • The Tree’s Final Sacrifice:
    • The boy, now an old man, returns to the tree when he needs a place to rest.
    • The tree, now only a stump, offers itself as a place for the old man to sit and find comfort.
  • Conclusion:
    • The story ends with the old man, the boy who is now elderly, appreciating the tree’s selflessness and reflecting on the love they shared throughout their lives.

 Key Plot Points:

  • Major Conflict: The conflict revolves around the tree’s selfless desire to make the boy happy and the boy’s growing demands, which gradually deplete the tree’s resources.
  • Turning Points:
    • The tree’s initial offering of shade and companionship sets the foundation for their friendship and establishes the tree’s willingness to give.
    • The boy’s increasing demands, starting with the apples and progressing to the tree’s branches and trunk, highlight the tree’s unwavering commitment to the boy’s happiness.
    • The tree’s final sacrifice, offering its stump as a resting place for the old man, represents a turning point where the tree has given everything it can.
  • Climax: The climax occurs when the tree, now reduced to a stump, provides the old man with a place to rest, symbolizing the culmination of the tree’s giving nature and the boy’s realization of the tree’s unconditional love.

Subplots/Secondary Storylines:

  • The story explores themes of selflessness, love, and sacrifice through the relationship between the boy and the tree.
  • The tree’s transformation from a lush and vibrant entity to a mere stump serves as a secondary storyline, representing the depletion of its resources and the sacrifices it willingly makes for the boy’s happiness.
  • The absence of the boy for a significant period creates a subplot of longing and patience, as the tree faithfully awaits his return, demonstrating its enduring love and devotion.

The Giving Tree: Themes and Messages

The main themes or messages explored in the book “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein are:

  • Selfless Love and Sacrifice: The theme of selfless love is central to the story, depicting the tree’s unwavering willingness to give everything it has to make the boy happy.
  • Nature’s Generosity: The book highlights the inherent generosity of nature, symbolized by the tree’s constant provision of its fruits, branches, and shade.
  • Human Greed and Need for Material Possessions: The story explores the boy’s increasing demands and his pursuit of material possessions, illustrating the negative consequences of unchecked greed.
  • Appreciation and Gratitude: The book subtly raises the importance of appreciating and being grateful for the love and gifts received, emphasizing the reciprocal nature of relationships.

Examples or evidence from the story to support each theme or message:

  • Selfless Love and Sacrifice:
    • The tree gives the boy its apples to eat, its branches for him to build a house, and its trunk for him to make a boat, sacrificing its own well-being for the boy’s happiness.
    • Even when reduced to a stump, the tree continues to give the boy a place to sit and rest.
  • Nature’s Generosity:
    • The tree provides the boy with shade from its leaves, allowing him to escape from the heat of the sun.
    • It offers its apples as a source of nourishment and sustenance for the boy throughout his life.
  • Human Greed and Need for Material Possessions:
    • As the boy grows older, he demands more and more from the tree, starting with its apples and eventually asking for its branches, trunk, and finally, a place to sit.
    • The boy’s desire for material possessions drives him to exploit the tree’s generosity without considering the consequences.
  • Appreciation and Gratitude:
    • Towards the end of the story, when the boy has grown old, he returns to the tree and simply sits on the stump, finding peace and contentment. This suggests a moment of reflection and appreciation for the tree’s selfless love.
    • The tree, despite being reduced to a mere stump, expresses happiness as the boy finds joy and fulfillment in its presence.

The significance or relevance of these themes in the context of the book:

“The Giving Tree” serves as a poignant and timeless reminder of the power of selfless love, generosity, and gratitude. The story highlights the importance of nurturing relationships based on giving and receiving, and the consequences of unchecked greed and materialism.

Through the tree’s unwavering devotion and sacrifice, the book prompts readers to reflect on the selfless love they have experienced in their own lives and the value of such relationships. It raises questions about the balance between giving and taking, and the potential consequences of taking without gratitude or consideration for others.

The book also serves as a gentle critique of society’s consumerist tendencies and the importance of appreciating the natural world and its gifts. It invites readers to pause and reflect on the impact of their actions on others and the environment.

“The Giving Tree” teaches valuable lessons about love, generosity, gratitude, and the interconnectedness between humans and nature. It’s simple yet profound message resonates with readers of all ages, encouraging them to cherish and nurture meaningful relationships and to find fulfillment in selfless acts of kindness.

Writing Style & Tone

Shel Silverstein’s writing style in “The Giving Tree” can be described as simple, poetic, and heartfelt. Silverstein uses concise and accessible language, making the book easily understandable for readers of all ages. His writing is characterized by its economy of words, with each sentence carrying emotional weight and conveying profound meaning. The language flows smoothly, often incorporating rhyme and rhythm, which adds to the lyrical quality of the text. Silverstein’s writing style is straightforward yet evocative, allowing readers to connect with the story and its themes on a deep emotional level.

The tone of “The Giving Tree” is bittersweet and contemplative. The book explores themes of selflessness, sacrifice, and the cycle of giving and receiving. It evokes a sense of tenderness and nostalgia as it tells the story of the relationship between a boy and a tree. The tone is often melancholic, as the tree gives unconditionally to the boy throughout his life, even as he takes more and more from her. However, there is also a sense of acceptance and love in the tree’s actions, which ultimately leaves readers with a feeling of reflection and introspection.

One unique narrative technique used by Shel Silverstein in “The Giving Tree” is the personification of the tree. By giving the tree human-like qualities, emotions, and desires, Silverstein creates a profound connection between the reader and the natural world. The tree becomes a character with whom readers can empathize and relate, despite its non-human nature. This technique adds depth to the story and enhances its allegorical nature, allowing readers to contemplate the themes of selflessness, love, and the consequences of one’s actions. Additionally, Silverstein’s use of sparse and uncluttered illustrations further complements the narrative style, leaving space for readers’ imagination and interpretation.

  • Title: “Where the Sidewalk Ends”
    • Author: Shel Silverstein
    • Gist: Another masterpiece by Shel Silverstein, this collection of poetry and illustrations is full of whimsy and imagination, appealing to both children and adults alike.
  • Title: “A Light in the Attic”
    • Author: Shel Silverstein
    • Gist: Shel Silverstein’s delightful collection of poems and drawings explores a wide range of topics, from the silly to the thought-provoking, with his signature charm.
  • Title: “Falling Up”
    • Author: Shel Silverstein
    • Gist: In this book, Shel Silverstein continues to captivate readers with his playful and inventive poetry, featuring imaginative characters and engaging verses.
  • Title: “The Missing Piece Meets the Big O”
    • Author: Shel Silverstein
    • Gist: This heartwarming tale by Shel Silverstein follows a circle in search of its missing piece, imparting valuable lessons about self-discovery and contentment.
  • Title: “Every Thing On It”
    • Author: Shel Silverstein
    • Gist: Published posthumously, this book features a collection of Shel Silverstein’s poems and drawings, showcasing his unique style and wit.
  • Title: “Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook”
    • Author: Shel Silverstein
    • Gist: In this delightful book, Shel Silverstein playfully twists words and creates a new language with hilarious poems about Runny Babbit and his friends.
  • Title: “The Velveteen Rabbit”
    • Author: Margery Williams
    • Gist: A timeless classic, this heartwarming story explores the power of love and the meaning of being real, as seen through the eyes of a beloved toy rabbit.

These recommended reads are perfect for fans of “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. Each book carries a unique charm and delightful storytelling that will capture your imagination and touch your heart, just like “The Giving Tree.” Whether you’re seeking whimsical poetry or heartwarming tales, these books will bring joy and inspiration to readers of all ages. Happy reading!


What is “The Giving Tree” about?

 “The Giving Tree” is a children’s book that tells the story of a tree and a young boy who develops a lifelong relationship with it. As the boy grows older, he continuously returns to the tree, asking for different things at different stages of his life. The tree selflessly provides for him, giving away its apples, branches, and eventually its trunk. The story explores themes of selflessness, love, and the nature of relationships.

What age group is “The Giving Tree” suitable for?

“The Giving Tree” is suitable for children of various ages, ranging from preschoolers to early elementary school students. The simple language and engaging illustrations make it accessible to young readers, while the themes and emotional depth resonate with older children and even adults.

What makes “The Giving Tree” a popular children’s book?

“The Giving Tree” has become a popular children’s book due to its timeless themes of love, selflessness, and sacrifice. Shel Silverstein’s poetic writing style and poignant illustrations evoke powerful emotions in readers, allowing them to reflect on the nature of relationships and the value of giving.

Is there a moral or message in “The Giving Tree”?

“The Giving Tree” presents a moral message about selfless giving and the importance of love in relationships. It encourages readers to consider the balance between giving and taking, and the significance of appreciating and valuing the things and people who selflessly support us.

Does “The Giving Tree” have a sad ending?

The ending of “The Giving Tree” can be interpreted as bittersweet or sad, depending on the reader’s perspective. While the tree gives away everything and is left as a stump, the story also emphasizes the joy the tree experiences in providing for the boy. It invites readers to consider the complexities of relationships and the concept of happiness.

What lessons can children learn from “The Giving Tree”?

“The Giving Tree” teaches children important lessons about selflessness, gratitude, and the value of giving without expecting anything in return. It also encourages empathy and understanding for the sacrifices others make for our happiness.

Can “The Giving Tree” be enjoyed by adults as well?

Yes, “The Giving Tree” can be appreciated by adults as well. The book’s themes and emotional resonance extend beyond childhood, allowing adults to reflect on the nature of relationships, personal sacrifice, and the complexities of love and giving.


“The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein is a beloved children’s book about a tree and a boy who share a special bond. The tree selflessly gives everything it has to make the boy happy, from shade and fruit to its very trunk, as the boy grows older. The story teaches lessons about love, sacrifice, and the consequences of one-sided relationships.

“The Giving Tree” has touched the hearts of readers of all ages. Its heartfelt story and beautiful illustrations provoke emotions and inspire reflection on the importance of giving and appreciating nature. The book has become a timeless classic that reminds us to cherish our relationships and the gifts in our lives.

I highly recommend reading “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein, whether you’re a child or an adult. Its simple yet profound message about selflessness and gratitude resonates with readers. If you’ve read the book or have thoughts on its themes, I encourage you to share your thoughts and engage in conversations about the impact it has had on people worldwide.

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