Saturday, June 9, 2007

On Shel Silverstein

I feel like I've been focusing on the kids a lot lately, so today I thought I would change it up and talk about a favorite writer/artist for adults--Shel Silverstein.

If you haven't seen the official site for Shel Silverstein, it's, well, AMAZING, super-fun, and you need to check it out. You will find, however, that it is called The Official Site for Kids. And if you know your Shel Silverstein, you'll see it's missing a few titles and that the biography presented is a bit skimpy on the details. (Not surprising really, as the site is run by HarperCollins and the books I'm about to talk about are, in fact, from Simon and Schuster)

Shel Silverstein is, truly, one of the greatest modern poets for children in the English language. He was also a cartoonist for Playboy from the mid 1950s through the 1960s, and often was sent around the world to write back dispatches from his travels to places in Europe, Africa, and the U.S. Fireside has just released Playboy's Silverstein Around the World, which is the complete collection of his travel pieces. Each dispatch was a collection of cartoons, all featuring him and his familiar beard and moustache (you see him get progressively balder through the years) as he encounters the natives of Paris, London, Hollywood, and Nudist Camps. If you were a fan of Mr. Silverstein's when you were younger, you have to take a look at these and gain a new appreciation for him as an adult. Like the best New Yorker cartoonists, his drawings and captions were a fantastic combination of distinctive style and wit.

I have to add that if you are familiar with Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book, then you already knew about the other side of Shel Silverstein (and, frankly, I want to have a drink with you). If you aren't, well, you're just missing out on one of the funniest books ever. EVER. I might have found this primer amongst my parents' books when I was a bit too tender of age, but there isn't anything inappropriate, just fantastic satire. Which bit to share? "B is for baby. See the baby ... Pretty pretty baby. Mommy loves the baby more than she loves you." Or "E is for egg ... E is also for Ernie. Ernie is the genie who lives in the ceiling. Ernie loves eggs. Take a nice fresh egg and throw it as high as you can and yell 'Catch, Ernie! Catch the egg!' And Ernie will reach down and catch the egg." If you do not laugh out loud whilst reading this, well, I wonder if there is hope for you.

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