America has produced many great authors of young-adult literature such as S.E. Hinton, Lois Lowry, and Louis Sachar. None of them are quite as beloved or well-known by readers as Shel Silverstein, author of poetry collections such as “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and “Falling Up” as well as young-adult books such as “The Giving Tree.” Silverstein lived a fulfilling and successful life; not only was Silverstein an author of great adolescent literature, he was also a soldier in the army, a musician, and a cartoonist.
Silverstein was born on September 25, 1930 in Chicago, Illinois. At the age of twelve, after discovering his lack of athletic talent, he began to write poetry. Since he was unfamiliar with the styles of famous poets, he created his own unique style of writing. When Silverstein was twenty, he enlisted in the United States Military and became a cartoonist at the Pacific Stars and Stripes, a military publication. After completing his duty, Silverstein was hired as a staff cartoonist for Playboy Magazine. His work with Playboy gartered him national attention. Around this time he also began writing music and books.
Silverstein established himself as a song-writer and musician, composing songs like “A Boy Named Sue” for Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn’s “One’s on the Way.” Later, he also began composing music that was later used for films such as Ned Kelly, Montenegro, and Thelma and Louise.
In 1963, Silverstein’s publisher at Harper & Row, Ursula Nordstrom, encouraged him to write children’s books and poetry. “Uncle Shelby’s Story of Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back” was first, followed by “A Giraffe and a Half” and “The Giving Tree.” The latter became very popular with adolescents and also his most widely discussed. Many believe it’s themes to reside somewhere between those for adults and children, but has nonetheless been translated into thirty different languages and continuously named to best-of children’s book lists of...