Shel Silverstein Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

The multitalented Shel Silverstein was known for his work in several genres. In addition to his popular, best-selling children’s poetry collections, he was recognized for humorous cartoons and drawings for adults and youth, comedic plays, illustrated juvenile stories, award-winning musical compositions, lyrics for pop and rock tunes (many of which he recorded), and film scores.

Shel Silverstein Achievements

(Poets and Poetry in America)

The bearded, shaved-headed Shel Silverstein first attracted national notice in the mid-1950’s for his clever, bawdy cartoons in Playboy magazine, which were published in collections during the 1960’s. He added songwriting to his repertoire in the late 1950’s, recording several albums. Through the encouragement of an editor, he entered the juvenile market, beginning in 1963 with a pair of self-illustrated children’s tales, and the following year, he published the first of a half-dozen collections of poems for children featuring his humorous drawings. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Silverstein penned the music and lyrics for several hits recorded by the likes of Dr. Hook and Johnny Cash, and his songs were heard in the films Ned Kelly (1970) and Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? (1971).

Throughout the 1980’s, while Silverstein continued to publish prose and poetry works for juveniles, he also wrote short plays and dramatic sketches, most of which were produced in New York City. For his efforts in the juvenile arena, Silverstein received such honors as the William Allen White Award, the Garden State Children’s Book Award, School Library Journal Best Book Award, and the Buckeye Children’s Book Award. He won a Grammy Award as composer of “A Boy Named Sue” in 1970 and received a second in 1984 for his recording of Where the Sidewalk Ends. He also earned a BMI Award in 1975 and was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe as composer of “I’m Checkin’ Out,” featured in the 1990 film Postcards from the Edge. In 2002, he was inducted posthumously into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Shel Silverstein Bibliography

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Gold, Marv. Silverstein and Me: A Memoir. Granada Hills, Calif.: Red Hen Press, 2009. A fond reminiscence of Silverstein’s life and work written by a lifelong friend and a fellow cartoonist, with an emphasis on how his early work for Playboy shaped his later career.

Huck, Charlotte S., and Barbara Zulandt Kiefer, eds. Children’s Literature in the Elementary School. Hightstown, N.J.: McGraw-Hill, 2003. A text for teachers of elementary and junior high school students that explores aspects of how to instill in children a lifelong love in reading through the use of picture books and poetry; includes works by Silverstein as illustrations of dynamic children’s literature.

Leonard, Hal. All Music Guide to Country: The Definitive Guide to Country Music. San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2003. A collection of informative biographies and essays about the growth of country music; includes a section on Silverstein’s contributions to the genre.

Pitt, Jeannie. Hugs and Popsicles: A Cure for the Imagine-Nation. Illustrated by Stephen M. Phillips II. Scotts Valley, Calif.: CreateSpace, 2009. A collection of poems for children and the adults who raise them, this book includes a number of Silverstein’s poems, selected because they illustrate the importance of using one’s imagination.

Rogak, Lisa. A Boy Named Shel: The Life and Times of Shel Silverstein. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2009. A new biography of the energetic, well-liked but reclusive multitalented Silverstein, based on original research and interviews with those who knew him best.

Rosow, La Vergne. Light ’n’ Lively Reads for ESL, Adult, and Teen Readers: A Thematic Bibliography. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Libraries Unlimited, 1996. Alisting of resources for teachers and parents of English-as-a-second-language students and reluctant readers, featuring a generous selection of Silverstein’s poetical works, complete with detailed indexes.