A truly unique and multi-faceted artist, SHEL Silverstein was a renowned poet, playwright, illustrator, screenwriter, and songwriter. Best known for his immensely popular children’s books including The Giving Tree, Falling Up, and A Light in the Attic, Silverstein has delighted tens of millions of readers around the world, becoming one of the most popular and best-loved children's authors of all time.
Born in Chicago on September 25, 1930, Sheldon Allan Silverstein grew up to attain an enormous public following, but always preferred to say little about himself. “When I was a kid,” he told Publishers Weekly in 1975, “I would much rather have been a good baseball player or a hit with the girls. But I couldn’t play ball. I couldn’t dance. So I started to draw and to write. I was lucky that I didn’t have anyone to copy, be impressed by. I had developed my own style.”
Silverstein had two children. His first child was daughter Shoshanna (Shanna), born June 30, 1970, with Susan Hastings. Susan Hastings died five years later, on June 29, 1975, in Baltimore, Maryland. Shoshanna's aunt and uncle, Meg and Curtis Marshall, raised her from the age of five until her death of a cerebral aneurysm in Baltimore on April 24, 1982, at the age of 11. She was attending the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore at the time of her death. Silverstein dedicated his 1983 reprint of Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros to the Marshalls. A Light in the Attic was dedicated to Shanna, and Silverstein drew the sign with a flower attached. Shoshanna means lily or rose in Hebrew. Silverstein's other child was his son Matthew, born in 1983. Silverstein's 1996 Falling Up was dedicated to Matt.
Later in life, Silverstein loved to spend time at his favorite places, such as Greenwich Village, Key West, Martha’s Vineyard and Sausalito, California. Silverstein continued to create plays, songs, poems, stories and drawings until his death in 1999. He died at his home in Key West, Florida on May 9, 1999, of a heart attack, and his body was found by two housekeepers the following Monday, May 10. It was reported that he could have died on either day that weekend.
Born in Chicago, Silverstein began drawing at age five by tracing the works of Al Capp, as he later recalled, "The first thing I did was copy Al Capp. He really influenced me. It was the most wondrous thing for me. Al Capp knew how to draw people, shapes, bodies, hands. He knew how to draw well, so I learned how to draw well." He was also influenced by the style of gag cartoonist Virgil Partch. He told Jean Mercier of Publishers Weekly: "When I was a kid—12 to 14, around there—I would much rather have been a good baseball player or a hit with the girls, but I couldn't play ball. I couldn't dance. Luckily, the girls didn't want me. Not much I could do about that. So I started to draw and to write. I was also lucky that I didn't have anybody to copy, be impressed by. I had developed my own style; I was creating before I knew there was a Thurber, a Benchley, a Price and a Steinberg. I never saw their work till I was around 30. By the time I got to where I was attracting girls, I was already into work, and it was more important to me. Not that I wouldn't rather make love, but the work has become a habit."
Shel Silverstein's Playboy travelogues were collected in 2007.