Chicago, IL, US
The many books of Shelby Silverstein, b. Chicago, Sept. 25, 1932, d. May 10, 1999, are perennial favorites with children, who find his poems, and the cartoonish drawings that accompany them, deliriously funny. Silverstein was a cartoonist in the 1950s for the military newspaper Stars and Stripes. Once out of the armed services in 1956, he joined Playboy magazine as a cartoonist. His first book for children was Uncle Shelby's Story of Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back (1963). With the publication of The Giving Tree (1964), his name became prominent as a writer for children. The story of a tree that progressively gives its all—its shade, then its fruit, branches, and trunk—to gratify a little boy, it was interpreted by many adults as a moral tale. Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974) and A Light in the Attic (1981)—both collections of daffy poems with equivalent illustrations—have been praised as the contemporary equals of the works of Edward Lear and Dr. Seuss. After a hiatus of a decade and a half, Silverstein was back in fine form, and on the bestseller lists, with the children's book Falling Up (1996). The humorous poetry books Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook (2005) and Every Thing on It (2011) were published posthumously.
Silverstein wrote a number of plays for adults. In addition, he wrote the screenplay, with David Mamet, for Things Change (1988). An experienced folksinger, Silverstein was also a song composer (he wrote the Johnny Cash hit "A Boy Named Sue" in 1969) and a lyricist. Posthumously released albums include The Best of Shel Silverstein: His Words His Songs His Friends (2005) and Twistable, Turnable Man: A Musical Tribute to the Songs of Shel Silverstein (2010). Shelebration! A Tribute to the Works of Shel Silverstein (2011) featured celebrity performances of Silverstein's songs and poems in Central Park, New York City.
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