Friday, April 18, 2008

Author Spotlight: Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein never planned to write for children, and yet, that is the writing for which he is best known.  He was a man who wore many hats in his lifetime: writer, poet, cartoonist, songwriter, playwright, musician, composer, folksinger, screenwriter. 

He was born in Chicago, IL in 1930.  His writing career began when he was a GI in Japan and Korea in the 1950's, writing and cartooning for adults.  Later, he learned to play the guitar, and wrote songs for himself as well as others to perform.  Some of those "others" include: "A Boy Named Sue" sung by Johnny Cash, "The Cover of the Rolling Stone" sung by Dr. Hook, and "The Unicorn" sung by the Irish Rovers.  Amongst all of that, he wrote plays and films.   

It was not until he was brought to Ursula Nordstrom, legendary editor at HarperCollins Children's division, that Shel considered writing for kids.  His first children's book, Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back, was published in 1963.  In 1964, his fourth children's title, Uncle Shelby's Zoo: Don't Bump the Glump! and Other Fantasies, was published.  It was his first poetry collection, and his first and only children's book done in full color.  When A Light in the Attic came out in 1981, it was the first children's book to break onto the New York Times Bestseller List.  It stayed there for a record-shattering 182 weeks.  

Shel Silverstein continued to write many other treasures for young readers before his death in May 1999.  Today, his books are published in 30+ different languages, and his work is loved by both children and adults alike.

Shel Silverstein Teacher Resource File
* (Sadly, the above link no longer works as of 4/19/2013.)

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