The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde & Lisbeth Zwerger (illustrator)

***I mentioned last week that I was thinking of a new series based on books I like to read my kids.  Tonight I was inspired enough to kick the series off.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy reading these books to my kids.***

the-selfish-giantWhat to do when your finances don’t allow for endless book buying?  Well, the library of course!  But in the case of books for children I don’t mean that in quite the way you might think.  One of the nicer neighborhoods near where we live has a nice library of course.  But they also have a wonderful children’s book section in their Friends of the Library book sale area.

I particularly enjoy older children’s books (older in terms of  publishing date not age of the children).  And so love hunting through the kids section looking for hidden gems.  That way I can surprise my kids with a new story to read and it only costs me a dollar or two.  I have found quite a few great books this way.

Which brings us to the subject of this post.  I found this great edition of Oscar Wilde’s children’s story The Selfish Giant.  It has wonderful watercolor illustrations by Lisbeth Zwerger (I frequently look for books with nice or unique illustrations as my wife is an artist and loves these books as much as the kids).

I was not familiar with the story prior to bringing it home.  Having read it a few times now, it has moved into my favorites list. It is a wonderfully simple fairy tale about the dangers of cutting your self off from the world.  And it ends with, for me, a moving reminder of the power of the Christian faith.

But no matter what your faith background, or lack thereof, it really is a gem of a story about the soul killing nature of isolation, the magic of  children, the wonders of spring, and the powers of love. The happy tale ends on a deeply sad note but carries with it either the cycle of life or the promise of redemption depending on your perspective. (I will admit holding back tears on occasion.)

The story is widely available online in its entirety (here for example) so if you aren’t familiar with it read it – you will be glad you did.  Of course, to truly enjoy it, IMO, you need the wonderful illustrations offered by this particular edition. The delicate water colors match the tone and feel of the story perfectly in my mind.  We have also read Hans Christian Anderson’s The Swineherd with her illustrations and they are equally well done. She really is an incredible artist.

For our family a book like this is a wonderful edition to the library.  Not just because of the joy it provides as a bed time story, but because it is a both a parable for young and old – and a message we all need to hear – and a work of art.  And sharing that art together makes it all the more special.

Do you have books like this in your family?  Did you read this story when you were younger? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).


  1. Hey I also like books with good designs on the front cover. If the design is pleasing to the eye I am more likely to pick up the book and buy it. I think the book can be great, but if the front cover of the book is lacking then the sales will be down.

  2. hey, thanks so much for this! (; just looking around for a review on this story and happened to come across this! ;p need to write a response thingy for my school thing and i think this actually helped quite a lot! i agree with the stuff you said about ‘the soul killing nature of isolation, the magic of children, the wonders of spring, and the powers of love’ 100%! haha, so thanks heaps ;D

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