Shel Silverstein

March 31, 2009
By Faith Cheung BRONZE, Irving, Texas
Faith Cheung BRONZE, Irving, Texas
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

" 'And now, children, your Uncle Shelby is going to tell you a story about a very strange lion-in fact, the strangest lion I have ever met.' So begins one of Shel Silverstein's very first children's books, the Lion Who Shot Back. It's funny and sad and has made readers laugh and think ever since it was published in 1963." (About Shel) Shel Silverstein had a good sense of humor. He added his thoughts and attitude towards the world into his creative writings making both children and adults enjoy reading his books. Although constantly under the attention of photographers and reporters, his attitude towards attention and fame was shunning them out and avoiding personal questions which led him to a less hectic life of fame.

Shel was born in Chicago, Illinois on September 25, 1930. He had one younger sister named Peggy, who died of the common cold. Although he became the only child of his family he worked hard, spending his time writing and drawing. Eventually he developed his own writing style because he had never read work from other writers. From his talent, Shel advanced ahead of his Senior class by a couple of months but later failed at the University of Illinois, being expelled. Shortly after, in 1953, he graduated with a bachelor's degree and was drafted into the Army. The Army stationed him in Kyoto, Japan and South Korea, and during his tour, he became a cartoonist for the Pacific military newspaper and had worked alongside and befriended Don Carpenter. He served in the Army for two years until they discharged him in 1955. Shel died at the age of 68 on May 8, 1999 from a heart attack but was remembered by many Americans because of his dedication to writing many enjoyable books for children and adults.

He also had a passion for music, which he discovered early on while studying briefly at Chicago College of Performing Arts. Fans remembered him as one of the greatest songwriters of our time. Shel tended to shun publicity and even photographers. Nonetheless he released a breathtaking catalog of songs that became quite popular. He also composed original music for several films in which he played different instruments including guitar, piano, saxophone and trombone. Not only did he compose music for other singers but also lyrics. Along with his composing of lyrics, poems and stories he was part of a popular radio show.

Out of Shel's many awards, the most recent was in 1985. He received the Buckeye award for "A Light In The Attic". His awards emphasized how well the morals behind his stories were told, making his books best sellers. Shel dedicated poems to his beloved family members in memory of their deaths, touching the many readers around the world. Due to winning so many awards and having popular success in all of his professions he became one of those rare "multi-threat" artists. He did not become conceited, but continued to work hard doing what he most enjoyed. Even though he wanted readers to enjoy reading his books, he did not care what people thought of his writing. His goal in continuously writing helped him keep fighting towards beloved career.

He achieved fame by being a children's writer after the publishing of "The Giving Tree" in 1964. His book had first been rejected by a famous publisher who felt that the book fell in between adults' and children's literature and would never sell. From Silverstein's point of view it told a story about two people; one gives and the other takes. The book was later published and both children and adults adored the book. The story of a tree that gives its shade, fruit, branches, and finally its trunk to give a little boy happiness, steadily grew to be famous. The touching story had been viewed as a religious symbolism; ministers used the book for discussion topics in Sunday schools. Shel Silverstein's abilities to make readers smile and enjoy the many poems, stories and drawings that he created made him into a well known author who is still recognized for his works today.

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