Biography of Shel Silverstein - Poet and Author of Children's Books
Sheldon Allan Silverstein well known as Shel Silverstein was born in Chicago on September 25, 1930.
Shel Silverstein was an American songwriter, poet, author of children's books, musician, composer, cartoonist, and playwright.His writings ranged from being funny, irreverent to teaching a moral lesson. His writings were always accompanied by his drawings that showcased his unique style.
Children enjoyed reading his poetic verses. They were naughty and funny and appealed to a child's thoughts and imagination.
One of his books The Giving Tree has been translated into thirty languages. It is still one among the many books listed as the best children's book of all time.
Early Life of Shel Silverstein
Shel Silverstein was born to Nathan and Helen Silverstein. He was very talented and started drawing and writing at a very young age.
Shel Silverstein graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1948. After finishing his high school, Shel Silverstein joined the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and further studied at the Roosevelt University. Shel Silverstein did not complete the course in Roosevelt University, he dropped out and joined the army in September 1953.
During his term in the army, he served in different American bases including Korea and Japan. Many of his cartoons were published in the Pacific Stars and Stripes magazine during his term in the army. Shel Silverstein’s first book Take Ten was published in 1955; it was a compilation of his military Take Ten cartoon series.
Shel Silverstein's Cartoon Series
On his return to Chicago Shel Silverstein decided to submit his cartoons to various magazines. His cartoon submissions were featured in magazines such as Look, Sports Illustrated and The Week. He became well-known among people when his book Take Ten was published by Ballantine Books but under a different name – Grab Your Socks in the year 1956.
Later on the Playboy magazine hired him as a senior cartoonist. His first assignment was to travel the world and create a travel journal. Shel Silverstein visited places such as New Jersey, Chicago, Mexico, London, Paris, Spain and Africa.
In the year 1950 Shel Silverstein published a cartoon collection called Now Here's My Plan that went on to become the best cartoon collection of the 1950s and later on became the cover of his next hugely popular cartoon series published by Simon and Schuster.
Shel Silverstein - The Poet
In the year 1974 Shel Silverstein released his first collection of poems for children, Where the Sidewalk Ends. His poems were funny and always illustrated in black and white. In the year 1976 Shel Silverstein introduced a new picture book called The Missing Piece.
The Missing Piece was a story about a circle searching for a missing wedge of itself and when the circle finally finds the missing piece, it realizes that the whole experience of searching was a greater joy than actually having the missing piece.
After three years had passed Shel Silverstein published another book called the Different Dances. The Light in the Attic was the one book that catapulted Shel Silverstein to recognition as a great poet.
Shel Silverstein released another book as a sequel to the first book The Missing Piece called The Missing Pice Meets the Big O. This story revolved around the missing piece and was written from the missing piece's point of view.
Shel Silverstein - Author of Children's Books
Shel Silverstein published his very first book “Uncle Shelby’s Story of Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back” in 1963. “The Giving Tree” was the book that brought recognition to Shel Silverstein as an author of children's books.
The book The Giving Tree was rejected by Editor William Cole, but it was later on published by Harper Collins and became a huge success.
The Giving Tree was beautifully written and illustrated by Shel Silverstein. The Giving Tree is a story about a boy who visits the tree every day and keeps taking what the tree willingly gives but as the boy grows he wants more and more. The tree keeps giving with unconditional love expecting nothing in return till it has nothing more to give.
Shel Silverstein's Contributions to Music and Theater
Shel Silverstein was passionate about music and he penned many songs for other artists. Some of his songs became popular and was a hit among his fans, to name a few -
A Boy Named Sue sung by Johnny Cash, One’s On the Way and The Unicorn sung by Irish Rovers, Boa Constrictor, So Good To So Bad, Slyvia’s Mother sung by Dr. Hook.
Shel Silverstein wrote movie scripts such as Ned Kelly, Thieves, Postcards From the Edge and Who is Harry Kellerman And Why IS He Saying Those Terrible Things.
He also penned one hundred plays, to name a few - The Lady or the Tiger Show, One Tennis Shoe, Bus Stop, Going Once, The Best Daddy, The Lifeboat is Sinking.
Shel Silverstein married Susan Hastings. They had a daughter name Shoshanna on June 30, 1970 Shoshanna died at a very young age; she was eleven years old when she was affected by cerebral aneurysm that lead to her untimely death.
He also had a son named Mathew with another woman named Sarah but he never married her.
Shel Silverstein won a Grammy Award for A boy named Sue in 1970. He was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his song I’m Checking Out in the film Postcards From the Edge. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002 posthumously.
Shel Silverstein kept writing plays, songs and poems till his very last days. He died of heart failure in Key West Florida on May 9th, 1999.