Shel Silverstein Biography: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Kelly Beaty

Kelly has taught fifth grade language arts and adult ESL. She has a master's degree in education and a graduate certificate in TESOL.

In this lesson, you'll learn about Shel Silverstein and his work as an author and illustrator. You'll read some of his writing and experience why he had such a long and successful career.

A Creative Mind

The introduction to Shel Silverstein's book of poems, Where the Sidewalk Ends, provides a good introduction to this author and illustrator:


If you are a dreamer, come in,

If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,

A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer...

If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire

For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.

Come in!

Come in!

The Making of an Author and Illustrator

Sheldon Allan Silverstein was born in 1930 in Chicago, Illinois. He is best known by the name Shel Silverstein. The reason people know his name at all is that his writing and drawings are very popular.

Lots of children think about what they want to do when they grow up. Have you ever thought about that? Shel Silverstein became a writer and illustrator because these are the skills he was born with! He was naturally good at these things.

Writer of Books, Poems, and Music

As a child, Shel dreamed of being athletic and popular with the girls, but these were not things that came naturally for him. Instead of trying to be someone he was not, Shel started to use his very real talents in creative writing and drawing.

Shel Illustrated His Own Books

Today, all we have to do is search the Internet to find inspiration for stories and pictures. We can look up just about anything and find ways to draw or write about it. Back when Shel was a child, this technology was not available. As a result, he developed his own very unique style of writing and drawing.

When Shel first started getting paid for writing and illustrating, it was for writing cartoons for magazines when he was in the Army. He also wrote stories, articles, plays, songs, and poems, and he illustrated many of the stories and poems he wrote.

Shel Silverstein's Work

Shel is best known for the books and poetry collections he wrote for children. Even though his books were written so that children could understand them, they often talk about things that matter to adults and children alike.

The Giving Tree, for example, is a story about sacrificing your own needs for the happiness of another. The Missing Piece is a story about finding what makes your life feel complete. Both of these stories are about things that people of all ages think about from time to time.

Here is another example, taken from his book of poems, Falling Up:


There is a voice inside of you

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