Fun Facts About Shel Silverstein

Updated on February 19, 2018

Shel Silverstein (Sheldon Allan Silverstein) was a multifaceted artist. He was born in Chicago, Illinois, on September 25, 1930. He was a renowned poet, singer, musician, composer, songwriter, playwright, screenwriter and illustrator. Falling Up, A Light in the Attic, Different Dance, Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Giving Tree are some of his famous works. He was known for his tender heart, zany wit, bold humor, unique imagination and irreverent wisdom.

"When I was a kid, I would much rather have been a good baseball player or a hit with the girls. But I couldn't play ball. I couldn't dance. So I started to draw and to write. I was lucky that I didn't have anyone to copy, be impressed by. I had developed my own style", he said in an interview.

Shel Silverstein joined the Art Institute of Chicago, but left after one year. He started writing cartoons for Pacific stars and Stripes when he was a G.I. in Japan and Korea in the 1950s. He learnt to play the guitar. He also started writing songs during this period. In 1957, he was one of the leading cartoonists in Playboy.

Tomi Ungerer introduced him to Ursula Nordstrom (famous publisher of juvenile books and editor at Harper and Row). She encouraged him to write children's poetry. This meeting was a turning point in his life. "I never planned to write or draw for kids. It was Tomi Ungerer, a friend of mine, who insisted - practically dragged me kicking and screaming into Ursula Nordstrom's office. And she convinced me that Tomi was right, and I, quite frankly, could do children's books", he said in an interview.

There is a voice inside of you

That whispers all day long,

"I feel this is right for me,

I know that this is wrong."

No teacher, preacher, parent, friend

Or wise man can decide

What's right for you--just listen to

The voice that speaks inside.

— Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein was married briefly to Susan Hastings. She died on June 29, 1975 in Baltimore, Maryland. He had two children: Shanna and Matt. He loved to spend time in Greenwich Village, Martha's Vineyard, Key West and Sausalito. He spent much of his adulthood in these places.

"The Giving Tree" (published in the year 1964) has sold more than five and a half million copies. This parable is admired by readers of all ages. Shel Silverstein's songs "A Boy Named Sue" (for Johnny Cash) and "The Cover of the Rolling Stone" (for Dr. Hook) are hugely popular. "A Boy Named Sue" won a Grammy award in the year 1970. His song "I'm Checking Out" (for the movie "Postcards from the Edge") was nominated for an Academy Award in the year 1991.

His first collection of poems "Where the Sidewalk Ends" was published in 1974. Another collection of poems "A Light in the Attic" broke many records by staying on the New York Times list for 182 weeks. Shel Silverstein may have been best known for his children's books, but he has also written adult-themed books. His children's works are available in many languages all over the world. His poetry is recited in schools even today.

Shel Silverstein died of a heart attack on May 10, 1999 in Key West, Florida. His works continue to delight readers all over the world.

Have you read Shel Silverstein's poems?

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5 Famous Shel Silverstein's Books

The Giving Tree
Where the Sidewalk Ends
A Light in the Attic
Falling Up
The Missing Piece

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      • srirad0675 profile image

        Srikanth R 14 months ago


      • thumbi7 profile image

        JR Krishna 14 months ago from India

        Very interesting read.

        Thanks for sharing