Children’s story and poetry writer Sheldon Allen Silverstein was born in Chicago September 25th 1930. He may be a well-known children’s writer, but Silverstein did not start off that way. When he was a G.I in Japan and Korea in the 1950’s, Silverstein drew his first cartoons for Pacific Stars and Stripes. In addition to writing and drawing he was also finding himself to be skilled in playing the guitar and songwriting, having written “A Boy Named Sue” for Johnny Cash and “The Cover of the Rolling Stone” for Dr. Hook.
The famous children’s author never anticipated nor planned on writing for children. In the 1960’s Silverstein’s good friend Tomi Ungerer, who was a children’s author himself, finally told Silverstein that he could write for children and convinced him to meet his editor Ursula Nordstrom at Harper Collins. From here Silverstein’s career took off. The first book he published was entitled Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back in 1963. This encounter with Nordstrom also took care of his struggle to publish the now famous children’s book The Giving Tree. It had taken Silverstein a good four years to publish this book, and everywhere he had turned up until this point rejected it for various reasons. Many said it was too short and too sad, and some said that the book fell between children’s and adult’s literature, and they were not sure where it fit and felt that it would not be popular. Ursula Nordstrom was the one who finally saw The Giving Tree for what it is: a beautiful story for both children and adults that teaches about the power of love and giving. The book sold modestly at first, but soon quickly began finding its way into classrooms once its message became known.
Silverstein is mostly known for his books of poetry. After he published his first book of poetry in 1974, Where the Sidewalk Ends, he seemed to have found his true voice among his readers. His poems had creativity and imagination, and at the same time wit and hidden sense of humor that allowed them to be enjoyed by both adults and children alike. His next collections include A Light in the Attic and Falling Up, and are still read among favorites for early readers in schools.
Shel Silverstein passed away in May 1999, and up until his death he never stopped doing the things he loved. He spent time in places like Greenwich Village, Key West, Martha’s Vineyard, and Sausalito, California writing stories, poems, songs, drawing and never forgot to “have a good time.”