The Sidewalk Never Ends
“Let us make a pair of pants for the poor old hippopotamus, to cover his hide – once we decide exactly how big his bottomus.” This short, humorous poem from Where the Sidewalk Ends is one of the many unique and entertaining works of Shel Silverstein, a poet, author, artist and musician. As a child, I grew up reading books by Silverstein, including A Light in the Attic and The Giving Tree. I was excited to set out to find information about one of the authors that shaped my love for books at an early age. In order to find sources, I started at the UCO Library website. I went to the Articles/Databases page and chose to search using Academic Search Complete. Since I wanted as many results as possible, I clicked on Choose Databases and selected them all.
I typed “Shel Silverstein” in the search bar and limited the results to Full Text, so I could read all of the information online. Through these search criteria, I found many useful and reliable sources on the first page. Because I saw decent results, I simply scanned through the results on the first three pages and found exactly what I needed. While reading through this information, I learned a great deal of information about Shel Silverstein, the beloved author.
Sheldon Alan Silverstein was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1930. Silverstein described his youth as uncomfortable, and because of his awkwardness, he spent a lot of time alone writing and drawing (Means). Silverstein never intended to be a writer or artist, but his talents continued as he grew older. His career actually began with entertainment for adults in 1952 when he was a writer and cartoonist for Playboy magazine; he later illustrated for Stars and Stripes, a publication of the U.S. Army, while serving in Japan and Korea (“Kid’s Author Shel Silverstein Dies”). These experiences were just the beginning of his future in entertainment. In 1963, Silverstein wrote and illustrated his first book, Lufcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back, a funny and touching story about a circus lion’s identity crisis (Means). This book was his first published work and it allowed Silverstein to show his distinctive style. One of his most famous books is The Giving Tree. In 1964, it was rejected at first by publishers because of concerns that it fell somewhere between children and adult literature, but it has since been embraced by audiences of all ages (Brodie). The book tells the story of a life-long friendship between a boy and an apple tree. The Giving Tree, like many of Silverstein’s works, contains a moral lesson that targets both children and adults alike.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Silverstein became involved in music, performing his own songs as well as writing for artists like Johnny Cash, Brenda Lee, and Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show (Means). After his music days, he returned to writing, with a new, narrower focus on children’s literature. He wrote and illustrated multiple storybooks and three books containing collections of poetry, Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and Falling Up. After a career of more than 40 years, Silverstein died of a sudden heart attack in his Key West, Florida home in 1999 (Means). Even after being rejected by publishers, Silverstein’s work has never failed to appeal to readers at any age. He wanted people to enjoy his work but didn’t worry about whether his audience liked it or not; Silverstein said, “I think that if you’re a creative person, you should just go about your business, do your work, and not care about how it’s received” (“Kid’s Author Shel Silverstein Dies”).
Shel Silverstein has always been an outstanding author in my eyes. I have loved reading his books, especially his poetry collection books, even as an adult. His humor and deeper meanings make you laugh and often think about what messages the simple child-like poems are trying to teach. Silverstein has a completely original style and his line drawings bring even more imaginative elements into his works. As a child, I could relate to his frequent imaginary words and improper grammar. His books are always a joy to read, reminding the audience of the simplicity of childhood. As a life-long reader of Shel Silverstein, I know the sidewalk never truly ends.
Shel Silverstein (1930-1999)
Brodie, Carolyn S. “”The Giving Tree” By Shel Silverstein—A Forty-Five Year Celebration.” School Library Monthly 26.1 (2009): 22. Biography Reference Bank (H.W. Wilson). PDF File. 2 Nov. 2013. “Kid’s Author Shel Silverstein Dies.” AP Online (1999): Newspaper Source Plus. Web. 2 Nov. 2013. Means, Richard. “Shel Silverstein.” Shel Silverstein (2005): 1-3. Book Collection Nonfiction: High School Edition. Web. 2 Nov. 2013. Photograph of Shel Silverstein. N.d. School Library Monthly 26.1 (2009): 22. Biography Reference Bank (H.W. Wilson). PDF File. 2 Nov. 2013.