One day, a camp counselor read one of Silverstein's most popular books, The Giving Tree (1964), aloud to the group. I enjoyed it so much, I asked to look at the book afterwards, so that I could reread it.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, our family had a large maple tree in our backyard. I loved that tree. I never thought of the tree as an "it", but always as a "her" -- when we first moved to our house, I named her Maple. (Not real creative, I know, but I was only 6 at the time.)
I talked to Maple all the time, convincing myself I could hear her talking back. I considered her my friend. Because of that experience, I felt a connection to The Giving Tree. I could truly appreciate the bond between the boy and the tree in the story. The tree's selfless love for the boy warmed my heart, and that image has always stayed with me.
About a year later, one of my friends checked out the book Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974) from the school library. Together we sat down and looked through it, laughing and laughing at all the zany poems and illustrations inside. The book ended up being a huge hit with our whole class!
When I was in jr. high, I heard that Silverstein had published another book of poetry, A Light in the Attic (1981). I immediately went searching for it at the library. Once again, I loved the wackiness of Silverstein's words and drawings.
Many years later, my in-laws discovered what a big fan I am of Silverstein's work, and they bought me both volumes of poetry. When a third volume came out in 1996, Falling Up, they bought that for me as well. I've shared the books with my kids many times -- they love the silliness as much as I do! And even though I know many of the poems by heart now, I still find myself flipping through the pages every so often, reading and chuckling.
When Emmalie and Nick were little, my in-laws bought something for all of us, the CD of Where the Sidewalk Ends (2000). That was when I discovered something even better than reading those poems out loud -- listening to Shel Silverstein himself read them aloud! All these years later, we still pop the CD in on car trips sometimes -- instant fun for the whole family. :)
I've read most of Silverstein's other books for children... Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back, The Missing Piece, A Giraffe and a Half, and more. I've thoroughly enjoyed each one!
A few years ago, my brother-in-law gave me this one: Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros? (1964) -- a fun book about a very unusual pet!
He also gave me Runny Babbit, which was published in 2005, six years after Shel Silverstein's death. (It was completed before he passed away.) Talk about a tongue twister -- this one is nearly impossible (for me, anyway) to read aloud, but, oh, so funny to try!
Besides all of his works for children, Silverstein also wrote books and drew cartoons for adults. He composed music and wrote plays, as well. To learn more about this very talented man and his marvelous creations, check out the official Shel Silverstein website for kids. Be sure to look for his work at bookstores and the library, too!