kidsbook features

Alice, Charlie and Maybe The Giving Tree – The Very Best Children’s Books Ever – Pt. II

The article on the Very Best Children’s Books Ever was popular enough that I thought I’d do a Part II. So here are some more recommendations from some of our  NewsWhistle writers.  To (Giving) Tree or not to Tree?  That is the question.  Or at least one of them…

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Dan Kadison, NewsWhistle Founder and Editor in Chief: I know this will sound as a cop-out but I can’t name just one book. There are so many talents that blended amazing, original art with extraordinary words and creativity. Some of my early influences: Richard Scarry, Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl, Shel Silverstein, Roger Hargreaves, Frank L. Baum, Franklin W. Dickson, Dr. Suess, Peggy Parish, Donald J. Sobol, Annette Tison and Talus Taylor, and Ellen Blance, Ann Cook, and Quentin Blake.

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Jonathan Ells, NewsWhistle writer: Wow, tough question! There are so many options! I could give you ten answers. If I absolutely had to choose, I’d say Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. “Some days are like that, even in Australia.”

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Joey Ferndandez, NewsWhistle writer: It’s a toss up between The Cat in the Hat and Goodnight Moon but ultimately I’m going to have to choose Goodnight Moon.

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Chad Werner, NewsWhistle writer: I have three children’s books that I remember loving (and that I read to my own kids).  These are all tied for first place: How Far Will a Rubber Band Stretch? by Mike Thaler and Jerry Joyner, So What if it’s Raining? by Miriam Young and Carol Nicklaus, and Bears in the Night by Stan & Jan Berenstain. These were my jams.  All three of these books use imagination to spark adventures.  Also, re: Bears in the Night, I used to sneak out of our house all the time at night growing up.  (Don’t tell my parents.)
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Tony Church, NewsWhistle writer: My favorite children’s book would be The Story of Ferdinand, which tells the story of a bull who, being the strongest among his peers, prefers to enjoy nature, flowers, and idyllic country life rather than the glory and glamour of bull-fighting. The book appeals to all peace-lovers and takes a stance against senseless competition.

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Murphy, NewsWhistle writer: Wacky Wednesday by Dr. Seuss. My girls and I love to read it. My youngest [Murphy Jr.] loves Green Eggs and Ham… he cracks up every time. Oh, and by the way, I absolutely hate The Giving Tree!!! I hate The Giving Tree because the tree keeps giving to the boy and the boy keeps demanding more. Finally the tree is left a stump which the boy sits all over! Basically it describes every bad relationship I’ve ever had. Why would I teach my kids that? By the way, my wife loves the book.

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Sharky, NewsWhistle writer (married to Murphy): The Giving Tree.  Please hold back the eye rolling until you hear me out. This book has been the source of countless discussions between my husband and I (he hates it).  I can write an essay about my feelings on this one, but I will be brief here. There are a number of books that I have read over the years to my kids that I have discovered or rediscovered and fallen in love with. This one is high up on the list for me. I have read countless pieces by adults pooh-poohing this book as a tale of codependency and selfishness. What are we pooh-poohing exactly? That the boy didn’t love the tree as unconditionally as the tree loved the boy?

My reservations on the idea of unconditional love aside, I get it. But the boy DID start out with only a pure untainted love in his heart for the tree. It wasn’t tainted until he went out into the world and came back to the tree a bit more mature, a bit more selfish perhaps, and a bit jaded by the reality and demands of life and the world around him. The tree, rooted in earth, grown with sunshine, water, and love, remained unchanged and wanting only the boy’s love. The boy was not born selfish. His needs as a child were the same as the tree’s, the same as any living thing’s, really. They changed later.  We start out  identifying with the boy and come to hate what he turns into as he gets older. In my opinion, the things we often see and abhor in ourselves.

What strikes me the most  about this book is that EVERY child I have read this book to, and there have been many, including my own three kids, have all expressed nothing but love for this “sweet story.’’ The reason for this, I believe, is because they remain like the tree and the boy when he was young, still a bit rooted in the love of their home and family and not as affected by the outside world around them. In ten more years their opinion may change and if it does, I can only hope to bring them back to how they first felt about this book and remind them of how they viewed it as children: a sweet story of friendship, selfless love, and acceptance.

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Ted Werth, NewsWhistle contributor: The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.  The Lorax is a fantastical, funny, and engaging story that also happens to drive home an ever-more important lesson about industrialization and protecting the environment.

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Margaret Pritchard Houston, NewsWhistle writer: As for children’s books – can I have a series? The Narnia books are wonderful–the children are heroes and heroines without losing their reality as CHILDREN, and the books have real depth as well as often surprising moments of wit. And all the little girls are brave and smart and resourceful.

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Kimberley Drake, NewsWhistle writer:  My favorite children’s books are:

– Anything by Dr. Seuss
The Giving Tree and Falling Up by Shel Silverstein
Fudge and Superfudge by Judy Blume (actually, anything from Judy Blume, but those are  the kids books)
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
– Anything by Roland Dahl

Basically, they’re all fun, whimsical, hopeful, and in some cases magical books – what’s not to like?!?

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Amber Waves, NewsWhistle writer: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe! Four diverse characters, it’s like a boy band, everyone gets a favorite. Gorgeous and scary witch with the coolest powers.

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And two from me: Whenever a friend or relative or a colleague of my husband’s or a neighbor, or seriously, anyone I’m even remotely acquainted with, has a baby, I buy them a book.  Partly it’s paying it forward, because I had no earthly idea, until I had my first child, how very generous people can be to new parents and new babies, and I want to do my part to make the world a better place.  And partly it’s just because it’s so much fun to buy them.  One of my favorites for such occasions is The Three Questions, a story by Jon Muth which is an adaption from Leo Tolstoy, and it’s just lovely.  It addresses the questions “What is the best time to do things?  Who is the most important one? What is the right things to do?” in a sweet and satisfactory way, teaching compassion in a gentle fashion, with beautiful illustrations and a lesson about living in the moment that children and adults alike can use.  Plus animals!  A panda in distress.  A wise turtle.  You can’t go wrong here.  (I’ve probably given away at least fifty copies of this one, and will continue to do so until I run out of people I know having babies.)

Another wonderful book for new babies and their parents  is On the Night You Were Born, by Nancy Tillman, which is also beautifully illustrated…giraffes, ladybugs, geese…and which celebrates the uniqueness and wonder of each child on this planet.  “Because there had never been anyone like you…ever in the world.”  It’s something we all need to hear, and what better time then early on?

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Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com

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Lead-In Image Courtesy of Tatiana Akhmetgalieva / Shutterstock.com