CHICAGO — The Shel Silverstein Forever stamp — featuring artwork from one of his most famous books, “The Giving Tree” — was dedicated today at Darwin Elementary, one of the schools he attended as a child.
The extraordinarily versatile Silverstein (1930–1999) was one of the 20th century’s most imaginative authors and illustrators.
“He could be silly or serious — and anything in between. With his witty rhymes and whimsical, nonsensical verse, it was clear that he loved to play with language. It was also clear that his many readers — young and old alike — loved him for his clever word play. His books are bestsellers, with more than 20 million copies sold in more than 47 languages,” said Judy de Torok, the Postal Service’s vice president of corporate affairs and dedicating official.
Artist and author Dmitry Samarov, who was the featured speaker, said of Silverstein:
“I was 7 years old when my family moved to this country from the Soviet Union, so I didn’t grow up with Silverstein’s pictures and words. Nevertheless, I was predisposed to appreciate Silverstein’s type of poetry because in the Soviet Union many of the best writers found their only means of expression through children’s literature. His wit, playfulness and melancholy were felt instantly familiar — as if I’d always known them. … Silverstein never set out to write for children. He worked for Playboy and wrote raunchy songs for rock bands. He only turned to art and writing at all once it became clear he wouldn’t be in the starting lineup for his beloved White Sox.”
The Shel Silverstein Forever stamps are issued in panes of 20 and will always be equal in value to the current First-Class Mail 1-ounce price. News of the Shel Silverstein stamps is being shared with the hashtag #GivingTreeStamps.
Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree,” published in 1964 by Harper & Row, is about a friendship between a motherly tree and a boy. As the child grows older, the tree gives him its shade, apples, branches and trunk. The story ends with the boy returning as an old man to rest against the tree’s stump. The bestselling tale of selflessness, which is accompanied by the author’s elegantly simple black-and-white illustrations, is considered a classic of children’s literature.
Silverstein’s zany, self-illustrated books of poetry are similarly revered. “Where the Sidewalk Ends” (1974), “A Light in the Attic” (1981), “Falling Up” (1996) and “Every Thing On It” (2011) feature clever and, at times, playfully nonsensical verse that is adored by young people all over the world.
Children are enthralled by Silverstein’s poetry, which is full of fantastical imagery and often deals with the joys and fears of childhood. The four distinctive collections of poetry were bestsellers. The New York Times named “Where the Sidewalk Ends” an Outstanding Book of 1974; Silverstein’s album version of the book earned a Grammy Award for Best Recording for Children.
The multi-talented Silverstein also wrote and illustrated books for adult readers. He recorded his own songs in addition to writing hits for other artists. Silverstein’s music has appeared in many films. In the 1980s, he wrote plays performed off-Broadway in New York. He died in May 1999 at his home in Key West, FL.
In 2002, Silverstein was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Three of Silverstein’s books have been published posthumously: “Runny Babbit” (2005), “Every Thing On It” and “Runny Babbit Returns” (2017). His diverse body of work remains beloved by adults and children alike.
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