Children are still at an early stage in their lives, and they can be selfish from time to time by nature. So, it will be important to teach them the concept of sacrifice and helping others. When they are aware of this concept, they will be able to think about it either consciously or sub-consciously. Then, they will help other people more actively. I believe that it is such an important concept to learn. Therefore, I have introduced children’s books about sacrifice and helping others. I hope our children read these books and think over the concept of sacrifice and helping others.
Best books about Sacrifice and helping others
The Giving Tree
(Author & Illustrator: Shel Silverstein, Age range: 4~8 years)
There were an apple tree and a boy. The tree always wanted to make the boy happy. When the boy was young, he played with the tree by climbing its trunk, swinging its branches, playing hide and seek with it, etc. As the boy grew up, his demands for the tree also kept growing. When the boy wanted money, the tree gave its fruits and told him to make money from it. When the boy wanted a house, the tree gave its branches to build a house. When the boy grew old and wanted a boat, the tree told him to cut its trunk and build a boat.
The tree sacrificed everything to make the boy happy until only the stump was left. The only thing the tree wanted from the boy was being with the boy and making him happy even if the boy came to see it only when he needed something from the tree. The tree loved the boy so much and sacrificed nearly everything.
The Giving Tree is such a touching story of a sacrificial tree. The book was published in 1964, and has been the international bestseller since then. There are several interpretations of the relationship between the tree and the boy. For example, the tree has been considered as the God, Mother Nature, or a parent. When I read this book, the tree reminded me of a parent. Like most parents, the tree felt delighted when it helped the boy. Even when the boy did not appreciate the sacrificial help of the tree, the tree’s affection for the boy never waned. And even when the boy grew up to an elderly man, the tree still kept calling him a boy.
Most grown-ups are still like boys/girls to their parents. I will feel the same way when my 4-year-old daughter grows up. To me, this book is about parental love, and it is such a heart-warming story to me. Hope our children think about sacrifice and parental love through this story.
The Mitten Tree:
(Author: Candace Christiansen, Illustrator: Greenstein Elaine, Age range: 3~6 years)
It is a story of an old lady, Sarah, who lived by herself in a small house She loves watching children through the window from her house. When she was walking on a road on a cold winter day, she noticed that one boy was standing without wearing mittens. She made a pair of mittens for him, and hung them in a tree near the school bus stop. Since then, she kept knitting more mittens for the children. Children loved the mittens hanging on the tree while not knowing who hung the mittens.
One day, she came home, and there was a basket filled with many balls of colorful yarn. She kept knitting more mittens from the new basket while not knowing who left the balls of colorful yarns. The event of knitting the mittens and receiving the basket keeps happening while the children do not know who makes the mittens and Sarah does not know who brings the balls of colorful yarns.
Sarah keeps helping the children although she does not even get their gratitude in return. She is still happy with giving out and feels like the children are her own family. And unknown somebody keeps leaving a basket filled with the knitting materials although he or she is unknown to Sarah.
It is such a heart-warming story. And I believe that our society should work this way. We receive a lot of help from someone we do not even know. For example, we eat delicious food which we do not know who made it. We also do not know who made a lot of essential products we use. I think it is important to help someone who is in need although we do not know him/her very well.
If we keep helping many people, our society will be a better place to live in. That will be the primary message of this book. Sarah and the unknown somebody are the desired members of our society. And our children will be able to learn the concept of sacrifice and helping others from this book.
The Rainbow Fish
(Author & Illustrator: Marcus Pfister, Translator: J Alison James, Age range: 4~8 years)
There lived the most beautiful fish in the entire ocean, the rainbow fish. All the other fish were amazed by his beauty and wanted to play with him. But he was rather arrogant, and he ignored other fish.
One day, a little blue fish asked the rainbow fish to give him a scale, but the rainbow fish said NO. The news was spread quickly. Since then, other fish turned away from the rainbow fish.
The rainbow fish felt lonely and consulted a wise octopus for a solution. The wise octopus advised him to give away all the scales of him. The rainbow fish was hesitant at first, but he gave away his scales to other fishes. As he gave away his precious scales, he made a lot of friends and became happy. He was not the most beautiful fish in the entire ocean anymore, but he gained more valuable things.
It is a story about sacrifice. I introduced this book here rather than Best Children’s books about the ocean. The glimmering scale of the rainbow fish in almost all the pages is an eye-catching feature for many children. The book teaches that sacrificing precious things and sharing can help others, and it can be a beneficial task.
Some reviewers criticized this book by mentioning that it can be socialist propaganda. To me, it is a far-fetched conclusion. The main message of this book is that we can win more valuable things by giving out or sacrificing. In other words, the book is talking about compassion and sharing, and it is an important message for our children.
Another favorite message of this book is that the rainbow fish was trying to seek the advice when he had an issue. It can also be a valuable message to our children.
(Author: Pat Zietlow Miller, Illustrator: Jen Hill, Age range: 3~6 years)
This book is a story of a little girl (referred to as I) who thinks about what is being kind.
At school, Tenisha (a friend of the little girl) spilled grape juice all over her dress. When other friends laughed at her, the little girl did not. And, she tried to soothe and comfort Tenisha.
After this incident, the little girl thought about what is being kind. She thought that it might be giving, helping, or paying attention to others. She also thought that being kind might be easy sometimes, but it might be hard to do.
Then, amazingly, she thought that small kind behaviors of hers could accumulate to a bigger one, and spread out of the school, to the community, to the whole country, and to the entire world.
The little girl’s contemplation over what “being kind” means was narrated throughout the book after her friend spilled juice on her dress.
I love this book’s introspective analysis of being kind. The book even explains what activities are the recommended ones, such as calling someone by name. The book indicates that being kind can be an easy task, while it can be quite hard sometimes. That is what even grown-ups think from time to time. Our children will be able to contemplate over what “being kind” means through reading this book. It is highly recommended.
The legend of the Bluebonnet
(Author & Illustrator: Tomie dePaola, Age range: 4~8 years)
A long time ago, there lived a small girl named She-Who-Is-Alone in (nowadays) Texas. In this region, drought and famine lasted for a long time, and She-Who-Is-Alone lost all her family members, including her father and mother. All she had was a warrior-doll made by his father and mother.
One day, all the tribe members got together to pray to the Great Spirit for rain. After their prayer, the Shaman announced the crowds what the great spirit told him. The Shaman mentioned that the people had been very selfish by not respecting the mother nature for many years. He also said that the most valued possession should be sacrificed by burning it out to end the drought and famine.
People wondered what the most valued possession would be while being hesitant to give out their valuable possessions. Meanwhile, She-Who-Is-Alone knew that her warrior-doll was the most valued possessions because it was only possession she had, and it contained all the memories of her deceased parents and grand-parents.
She burnt her doll on the hill. The next morning, there were flowers and rain. The drought and famine were over, and the land was alive again. Since then, She-Who-Is-Alone was called with another name, One-Who-Dearly-Loved-Her-People.
The book is written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola (1934~2020), who passed away recently on March 30th, 2020. He has written more than 260 children’s books and had won many prestigious awards. A few examples are the Caldecott Honor Award and the Smithsonian Medal.
The book is about a little native girl in the Texas region. She sacrificed the most valuable thing (and the only thing she had) to save her people even when no one forced her to do so. It is such a heart-warming story. The book’s illustration has a unique style. Our children can think of what the real sacrifice is through reading this book.