Shel Silverstein
A Storyteller Entrepreneur

"If the track is tough and the hill is rough, THINKING you can just ain't enough!" Shel Silverstein Quotes

Silverstein is a children's book author that almost wasn't. It is with deep appreciation to his friend Tomi and his editor Ursula that I give my gratitude to the multitude of work Shel has created. For if it weren't for them convincing Shel to write a children's book, we wouldn't have The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein or any of the other great works of dear Uncle Shelby.

Shel was drawing comics and writing stories for grown-ups long before The Giving Tree came out. In fact that wasn't even his first children's book, it was Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back (List of Shel Silverstein Books). But, even before his first book was published Shel was telling stories with cartoons and music.

Silverstein began drawing as a child and would go on to study English and art at the University level. Once drafted into the Army, Shel began his first real job as a cartoonist and a reporter for the Pacific edition of Stars and Stripes. This, he considered a great responsibility and as an opportunity to develop his talent.

It was after his military service that Shel expanded his storytelling talents to other genres. Shel continued to work as a cartoonist and reporter for grown-up magazines, but he also began recording music albums and writing songs for other artists (one of the more popular performers being Johnny Cash).

Shel even published a few grown-up books during this time. All the while, he never even thought about writing for children. It wasn't until his friend Tomi Ungerer dragged Shel into a meeting with the children's book editor Ursula Nordstrom that he became open to the idea of writing a book for kids.

Soon after that fateful meeting came Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back. And it is here that Shel moves into yet another genre to spread out his storytelling talents, children's books. Although, I know a great number of grown-ups who take pleasure in reading those stories/poems for kids.

As with many of his children's books, Shel Silverstein poems are enjoyed by all ages. Shel's poem, "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out" is just one example where both children and adults can find themselves relating and delighting in the subject of his poetry. I mean how many of us wait until the trash can is bursting before we grudgingly take it out.

Or how about the number of us who pretend to be sick to avoid going to school or work – certainly, we all delight in the poem "Sick" by Shel Silverstein, no matter how old we are.Later on in his career, Shel delved yet again, into another storytelling genre – theatre. Shel found the playwriting experience very different than his cartooning and book writing. Playwriting is a great collaboration of envisioning the involvement of directors, designers and actors. Whereas, writing a book or drawing a cartoon is a more individual experience.

Shel took to the world of theatre and would eventually go on to collaborate with the famed David Mamet.

Whether we are reciting a Silverstein poem, or reading one of his books, or listening to a song he wrote, one thing's for sure. . .more likely than not, we'll be smiling with pleasure.

Fun Facts About Shel's Work:

  • During the 1950's some of Shel's cartoons appeared in Sports Illustrated, Look, and This Week magazines.

  • A Light in the Attic remained on the New York Times Best-Seller List for more than three years.

  • Famous singers such as Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn and Jerry Lee Lewis performed some of Shel's songs on their albums.

  • As part of the 2009 celebration of National Poetry Month, the listeners of American Public Media's, Marketplace Radio Show nominated the poem, Smart by Shel Silverstein to be read on air.

  • Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros? was revised and expanded in 1983 by Shel, after the success of his other books, Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic.

  • Shel won the 1984 Best Recording for Children Grammy Award for his recording of Where the Sidewalk Ends.

  • Shel's song, "I'm Checking Out", used in the motion picture, Postcards from the Edge was nominated for Best Original Song at the 1991 Academy Awards and the Golden Globes.

To find out more about our favorite author, check out Shel Silverstein Biography. You can also signup for our newsletter to keep up to date on events for kids during National Poetry Month.

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