It’s not just Will Smith who was born today. At least one other person was, and it’s none other than Shel Silverstein. Silverstein, who died in 1999, would have been 88 today.
Being a kid in the late ’80s/early ’90s, my reading list was almost entirely comprised of Silverstein poetry books, the Scary Stories to Read in the Dark series, and The Babysitter’s Club. I assume this is also true for basically everyone else in this age bracket.
I still remember staying up well past my 8 pm bedtime to sneak yet another reading of Where the Sidewalk Ends, or A Light in The Attic, enthralled for the entire time I could keep my eyes open. Of course the rumor among my friends that the books had “naughty” pictures (sort of true) and that some school libraries even banned the books entirely only made us want to read them more. That’s probably why we initially picked them up, but not why we kept coming back for more.
There’s something about the simple prose and the weird, rudimentary drawings that just connects. The tonal shifts from sincerity to the absurd, one poem after the next keeps you interested—just when you think Silverstein is going too sweet and thoughtful, bam! The next poem is about eating too much.
So in honor of Silverstein’s birthday, and because the simple grace of his work affords everyone a much-needed break from time to time, I present to you some of Silverstein’s best. Enjoy!
… and no list would be complete without this one. You didn’t think I’d let you out of this without getting a little teary, did you?
Image sources (in order of posting): Harper & Row, Harper & Row, Harper & Row, Harper & Row, Harper & Row, Harper & Row, Harper & Row, Harper & Row, Harper & Row,