Shel Silverstein and Where the Sidewalk Ends

I don’t know if I was the only one who read Shel Silverstein when I was growing up, but it recently came to my attention that he passed away. Shel Silverstein, born Sheldon Allan Silverstein in Chicago was an American poet, cartoonist, and author of children’s books. He also dabbled in songwriting and screenwriting.

            One of his most famous books, Where the Sidewalk Ends is a collection of poetry with illustrations that address common childhood shenanigans and anxieties along with many purely fantastical stories. This collection of poems was also picked as one of “Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children”. Silverstein never studied the poetic style of others, so he quickly developed him own quirky and conversational style which I think was why I found his work so much fun to read.

            His most successful book, The Giving Tree, generated quite a bit of controversy because of its plot. It was about a boy and his friendship with a tree and how their relationship changed overtime. As a child, the boy wanted to pick apples from the tree to sell. When he was married, he chopped down her limbs to build a house. Then as an old man, when the tree was reduced to nothing but a stump, he asked her for place to rest.

            As I said, I recently discovered Silverstein passed away some time ago, in 1999. When I think of poetry in my childhood, the only author that comes to mind is Shel Silverstein. Of course, I read books like Dr. Sues, but those always seemed like full stories to me. I loved Shel Silverstein because of his style, and the funny pictures that accompanied his work. It is a shame that he has passed because I know children truly enjoyed his work. I hope that another poet comes along that can pioneer a new style that will be truly enjoyable for children in the future.


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