Everything On It has been released this month 12 years after Shel Silverstein's death. He would have been 81 on September 25th. This book includes 145 poems in all that have never been published before. Toni Marklet is the editor of this collection, and had worked with Silverstein on other projects and is familiar with his committed attention to every last detail. He chose the type, size, shape, color and quality of the paper. Being a book collector, Shel took seriously the feel of the paper, the look, the fonts, and the binding. Most of his books did not have paperback editions because he didn't want his worked diminished in any way. She worked closely with Shel's family and used previous books as a template for the balance and pacing of the poetry and illustrations. NPR's Morning Edition did a great story on this new book. You can read and listen to it here. Be sure to listen to it. The poetry sounds so authentic as read by children.
When I set about to write this post about Shel Silverstein, I thought it would be much easier than it has been. I hadn't realized how much I DIDN'T know about this talented man. I learned a lot. He wore many hats as an American poet, singer-songwriter, musician, composer, cartoonist, screenwriter, AND author of children's books.
Sheldon Allan "Shel" Silverstein was born on September 25, 1930 in Chicago, Illinois. He began drawing at age 12. He would have preferred to play ball. But, well, he didn't have any athletic ability. Kinda puts a damper on that one. He put all of his energies into writing and drawing, that by the time the girls were interested in him, he was too busy. He attended the Art Institute of Chicago, but left after one year.
Mr. Silverstein's earliest professional works were not for children. And not poetry.
During his military service in the Korean War, Shel's cartoons were published in the Pacific Stars and Stripes. Those cartoons were compiled into his first book, Take Ten which was published by Pacific Stars and Stripes in 1955. It was reprinted by Ballantine Books in 1956 as Grab Your Socks! as a mass market paperback.
Now Here's My Plan was Mr. Silverstein's first collection of American magazine cartoons which was published by Simon and Schuster in 1960.
He was also a leading cartoonist for Playboy magazine from 1957 through the mid 70's. One of Shel's Playboy features was expanded and published into Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book by Simon and Schuster in 1961. The illustrated travel journal series that he did for Playboy between the 50's and 60's was compiled and published in 2007 by Fireside as Playboy's Silverstein Around the World with a forward by Hugh Hefner.
It wasn't until 1963, when Shel's friend and fellow illustrator dragged him into the office of Ursula Nordstrom (his editor at Harper and Row) and the two of them convinced Shel that he could write children's poetry. His first children's book, Uncle Shelby's Story of Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back was published that year. His first collection of poems, Where the Sidewalk Ends, was published in 1974. The Giving Tree was also published in 1974.
As a songwriter, he wrote a number of hits for other artists. He won a 1970 Grammy for writing Johnny Cash's hit A Boy Named Sue. He was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his song I'm Checkin' Out in the film Postcards from the Edge. He was posthumously inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002. Silverstein also composed and performed original music for several films.
Shel Silverstein died of a heart attack on May 10, 1999 at the age of 68 in Key West, Florida.
I am in awe of his talent. He was truly a gifted artist.