- NAME: Shel Silverstein
- OCCUPATION: Illustrator, Songwriter, Author, Poet
- BIRTH DATE: September 25, 1930
- DEATH DATE: May 10, 1999
- EDUCATION: Roosevelt University
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Chicago, Illinois
- PLACE OF DEATH: Key West, Florida
- AKA: Shel Silverstein
- Full Name: Sheldon Allan Silverstein
- AKA: Sheldon Silverstein
- Nickname: Uncle Shelby
Best Known For
Shel Silverstein was a poet and musician known for children’s books such as The Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends.
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Shel Silverstein was born on September 25, 1930, in Chicago. Silverstein studied music and established himself as a musician and composer, writing songs including “A Boy Named Sue,” popularized by Johnny Cash, and Loretta Lynn’s “One’s on the Way.” Silverstein also wrote children’s literature, including The Giving Tree and the poetry collection A Light in the Attic. He died in 1999.
"Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be."
"If you are a dreamer,come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hoper, a prayer, a magic-bean-buyer. If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire, for we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!"
"If the track is tough and the hill is rough, THINKING you can just ain't enough!"
Born in Chicago, Illinois on September 25, 1930, Shel Silverstein enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1950 and served in Korea and Japan, becoming a cartoonist for Stars & Stripes magazine. After his stint in the Army was up, he soon began drawing cartoons for magazines such as Look and Sports Illustrated, but it was his work for Playboy magazine that began garnering Silverstein national recognition. Silverstein's cartoons appeared in every issue of Playboy, riding the high-point of its popularity, from 1957 through the mid-1970s.
While at Playboy in the 1950s, Silverstein also began exploring other areas of creativity, including writing and music, and he contributed poems to the magazine, including "The Winner" and "The Smoke-off," and wrote the books Playboy's Teevee Jeebies and its sequel, More Playboy's Teevee Jeebies: Do-It-Yourself Dialogue for the Late Late Show. He also began publishing his own books of cartoons, beginning with Take Ten (1955) and Grab Your Socks (1956). In 1960, Silverstein’s collected cartons, Now Here's My Plan: A Book of Futilities, would appear with one of his most famous drawings adorning the cover. Around this time, he branched out into music, recording his first album, Hairy Jazz (1959), a record containing several standards and a couple of original songs. Silverstein would go on to produce more than a dozen albums over the course of his diverse career.
In 1963, Silverstein met Ursula Nordstrom, a book editor, and she convinced him to begin writing material for children, which he did on short notice. Uncle Shelby's Story of Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back would be the first, appearing that same year. The next year, he wrote two: A Giraffe and a Half and The Giving Tree, the latter of which would go on to become Silverstein's most popular book.
Besides being wildly popular, The Giving Tree is one of the most discussed children’s books of all time. Featuring a boy and a tree, the plot centers on both characters growing up and the boy having less and less time for the tree but more and more need for what the tree can give him. Eventually the tree allows itself to be chopped down to make lumber for a boat so the boy can go sailing. Years later, the boy returns as an old man, and the tree says, "I'm sorry, boy... but I have nothing left to give you." The boy says, "I do not need much now, just a quiet place to sit and rest." The tree then says, "Well, an old tree stump is a good place for sitting and resting.
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