Shel Silverstein has been recognized as one of the most talented and successful authors for poetry of his time. Shel grew up learning more talents than most of the other children. His career was full of success; many believe he was born with the natural ability to write. He had a strong sense of humor that greatly influenced his writing.
Sheldon Allan Silverstein, usually known as Shel, was born in Chicago on September 25, 1930. Shel was not like the other children. “When I was a kid,” he told publishers Weekly in 1975, “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.” Shel grew up learning many talents such as playing the guitar, drawing cartoons and writing songs. He spent his childhood in Chicago where his relatives resided.
When Shel was 21, he became an aspiring cartoonist and joined the newspaper staff for Stars and Stripes. He was drafted in 1952 and served until 1955. When he began working there, it became very apparent that he had never had a job like this; it gave him excellent experience. This job was supposed to be very serious, but knowing Silverstein, he had to add his own witty humor. Later on his life, he became a songwriter and his music was put in a country album. One could often find Silverstein in Greenwich Village, Key West, Martha’s Vineyard, and Sausalito, California. He continued to create plays, songs, poems, stories, and drawings up until his death in May of 1999.
Shel Silverstein had many famous books in his career. He was known for his amazing ability to make words rhyme. His first collection of poems was published in 1974. In 1964, he published The Giving Tree, which is still a classic today. In 1981, A Light in the Attic was published, following Falling Up in 1996. They both hit the best sellers list and stayed on The New York Times Best Sellers List for many months. A Light in the Attic shattered all previous records with its 182-week time span. Shel’s stories are classics in the poetry world. Many children are exposed to his books for their introduction to poetry. Even after Shel’s death, his books continued to sell. He is also known for having a successful career in song writing. He was able to take the credit for the Unicorn Song and I’m Checking Out, which were nominated for an academy award in 1991. In 1984, Shel won a Grammy for the Best Children’s Album for Where the Sidewalk Ends. Shel than became part of the staff at Playboy. He was hired by Hugh Hefner to draw cartoons and write poems for the magazine.
Shel won a lot of awards when he was alive, more than most authors. In 1974, he won the New York Times Outstanding Book Award for Where the Sidewalk Ends. In 1981, he won the Michigan Young Readers Award, also for Where the Sidewalk Ends. The Missing Piece Meets the Big O won the International Reading Associations Children’s Choice Award in 1982. In 1983, Light in the Attic won the Buckeye award. Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends won the George G. Stone award in 1984.
Overall, Sheldon Silverstein’s life was very successful. His family was very supportive of what he wanted to do, even starting with his childhood. He won many awards and accomplished great things in the poetry world. His ideas were witty and brilliant. He will always be known in history for the way he presented his life. Shel Silverstein lived by the motto, “have a good time.”