Shel Silverstein was born on September 25, 1932. He was a U.S. cartoonist, author, poet, songwriter, and playwright. He began writing when he was only 12 years old. He began his career in writing, not because he was good at it, but because he wasn’t good at anything else. He struggled with a lack of athletic ability; girls were not interested in him, so he found something that he could do. He picked up a pencil and paper and turned a bad situation into a very lucrative career. He went on to serve in the military, in the Korean War, and was educated at Roosevelt University.
Shel’s career in writing was diverse, to say the least. He was a cartoonist for Pacific Stars and Stripes, stemming from his service in the Korean War in the 1950’s. He served as a staff cartoonist for Playboy magazine in 1956. It wasn’t until 1963 that he began writing for children, which became his niche. In 1964 he published “The Giving Tree”, which was earlier denied publication on grounds that it fell between the interests of adults and children. He followed this book up with the publication of “Where the Sidewalk Ends”, which was published in 1974. This book received the New York Times Outstanding Book Award, and went on to win the Michigan Young Readers’ Award in 1981, followed by the George G. Stone Award in 1984. He followed this book up with “The Missing Piece”, in 1976, which Shel describes as being a little “disturbing”, because of the ending of the book. Post writing “The Missing Piece”, Shel wrote my favorite book, “A Light in the Attic”. This book is a collection of finely illustrated poems which won five awards over a five year time span. The published the follow up to the 1976 book, “The Missing Piece”, named, “The Missing Piece Meets the Big O” and published his most recent book, “Falling Up: Poems and Drawings”, in 1996. He wrote for Playboy Magazine prior to his death in 1999, where we can find his poem “Hamlet as Told on the Street” in the 1998 version of the magazine.
In addition to his book writing, Shel also wrote plays and music. One of the most famous songs that he wrote was the song, “A Boy Named Sue”, which was sung and performed by Johnny Cash. He also wrote music for the movie, “Postcards from the Edge”, which was nominated for a Golden Globe and Academy Award for best song in 1991. He wrote a play called, “The Lady or the Tiger Show” in 1981, which aired in New York. The play was about a game show in which the contestant picked from two doors, one of which had a beautiful woman, and the other a fierce tiger.
In conclusion, Shel, was a great, and brilliant writer, who the world lost in 1999, but his books, plays and music are still out there, as a tribute to those who enjoy them. In doing so, we can find the child in each of us, that plays tug o’ war with the grown up in each of us. In the words of Shel, “I will not play tug o’war. I’d rather play hug o’war. Where everyone hugs instead of tugs, where everyone giggles and rolls on the rug, where everyone kisses, and everyone grins, and everyone cuddles, and everyone wins.”