A Short Biography of Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein’s poetry has captured thousands of children’s imaginations across the world. His drawings and characters spark an innate desire to continue reading his works, which in turn creates a love of reading and poetry in general.

Born Sheldon Allan Silverstein, he began writing children’s books under the moniker “Uncle Shelby”, and then later used the pen name “Shel Silverstein”. Before his death in 1999, Silverstein had become an accomplished author, songwriter (including “A Boy Named Sue”, sung by Johnny Cash) and playwright.

Silverstein had an unusual ability to connect with his young audience. He wrote in such a way that it seems as if your favorite uncle is whispering secrets in your ear, while mischievously eyeing the other adults lest they overhear your conversation.

“Listen to the MUSTN’TS child,
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
The IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me-
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.”
– “Listen to the Mustn’ts” by Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

Silverstein’s writing usually featured fantastical, strange, and occasionally heartwarming characters, such as Joey, the boy who knocked down the sun, Allison Beals who had twenty-five eels, or the Little Abigail who wanted a pony very badly, but her parents refused to buy her one:

“… And her heart was broken,
And she DID die-
All because of a pony
That her parents wouldn’t buy.
(This is a good story
To read to your folks
When they won’t buy
Something you want!)”
– “Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony” by Shel Silverstein, A Light in the Attic

Silverstein’s most famous works include “The Giving Tree” and his poetry collection “Where the Sidewalk Ends”, “A Light in the Attic”, and “Falling Up”.

Although he died in 2009, Silverstein’s writing continues to amuse and inspire both young and old. The world may never know another poet that has the same ability to capture the imaginations of children. Thank you, Uncle Shelby!

Additional Resources:

About Shel- www.shelsilverstein.com

“Listen to the Mustn’ts” from Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein, Copyright 1974 Evil Eye Music, Inc

“Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony” from A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein, Copyright 1981 by Evil Eye Music, Inc