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And the Tree Was Horny

Shel_silverstein One of my favorite books ever is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. For me and a lot of other moms that I know, the simple story of a boy and the maternal tree who gives herself completely for him perfectly describes motherhood. I've heard a lot of criticism of the story, about how it implies that mothers/women/parents/guardians must sacrifice everything. But I've never felt that way about the story or motherhood. I don't have to sacrifice or give any of my self, but I choose to because that's the kind of love that I have for my child and it just so happens that a LOT of moms feel the same way.

It's often surprising to learn about the humanity of the artists that create our most cherished works, especially when their actions in life seem somewhat at odds with their works. Considering how perfectly Silverstein captured the relationship between a parent and a child, it's very surprising to learn that his relationships with his own children, while still very loving and I'm sure full of the emotions found in The Giving Tree, were perhaps not the most content.

Apparently Silverstein was quite the ladies' man and his first major writing gig was drawing comics for Playboy. During his, um, exploits, he fathered two children (that we know of): Shoshanna with Susan Hastings and Matt with Sarah Spencer. Shoshanna's life was very brief. She died of an aneurysm when she was 11. Sadly, Silverstein never got to know Shoshanna very well. He made more efforts to be a presence in Matt's life, living at least part of time in Key West where Matt and Sarah lived.

I'm sad that Silverstein had trouble finding his way as a dad, but it's somehow very comforting to me to know that even if he wasn't the guy swapping stories with his kids over dinner every evening or helping them with homework or playing catch, he still understood how it felt to be a parent, that he would give up his apples and limbs and body and finally just be a place to exist.

I'm also amused that this dude was such a player. I'm trying to imagine his pick-up lines. "Hey, baby. I have a giraffe and a half if you know what I'm sayin'. The sidewalk ends at my bed. Boom chicka bow wow."

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Related post: We're STILL "Free to Be You and Me"







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Comments

Fairly Odd Mother

The Giving Tree is one of my favorite childhood stories of all time.

You know he told every hot chick that he was the missing piece in their Big O.

Sally Says

Has anyone else seen the Shel Silverstein part in the 3rd "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" book? I swear I laughed for 10 minutes straight when my son showed it to me. Hilarious! Someone put a scan of it on her blog. I hope it's OK to post a link:

http://goodiebetterbest.blogspot.com/2009/03/uncle-shelby.html

Liana

He was my favorite poet growing up- and A Light in the Attic is on my bookshelf.

"If you have to do the dishes and you drop one on the floor...."

I also loved the one about the girl who died because her parents wouldn't give her the pony she wanted- a cautionary tale intended to be read to one' own parents.

He was definitely one of those grown-ups who still remembered what it was like to be a child.

linda

I can totally believe him being more of a dirty ol' uncle (Shelby) than a teddy bear of a guy. When I was still at the age where "A Light in the Attic" was still cool, I accidentally found this book of his: http://www.amazon.com/Uncle-Shelbys-ABZ-Book-Primer/dp/067121148X

I found it funny then and I still find it funny now. Dude never did forget his childhood, but MAN did he have a warped sense of humor!

ashley

My all time favorite poet! but horndog not suprised. He was a songwriter who wrote "Penicillin Penny", "Roland The Roadie And Gertrude The Groupie", "(Freakin' At The) Freakers' Ball", "get my rocks off". he also wrote Johnny Cash's "Boy named Sue."

Holmes

It used to really bug me when artists that created work I love turned out to be all human and imperfect and shit, but these days it actually makes me kind of happy since we're all in that same imperfect human boat. And shit.

LovelyLayla

We weren't allowed to read Shel when I was in grade school, so I was never introduced to anything he had written until I took a Children's Lit class in college. I totally fell in love. My kids will have his books.

DianaCLT

Uh....why weren't you allowed to read Shel Silverstein? Just curious.

LovelyLayla

A Light in the Attic was a challeneged book in our school. Some parents felt that it taught kids to disobey their parents, and the poem about the girl who wanted a pony and said she would die if she didn't get one. Some parents are weird, and feel like their kids could really take in more than just a silly poem.
That and because he worked for Playboy. It didn't help.

The Children's Lit class was interesting because we read about all the challeneged books on the ALA list. You'd be surprised not only on the books that have been on the list, but the reasons why.

DianaCLT

Huh. I didn't know he worked for Playboy 'til KDIDDY revealed it in this blog. Regardless, I'm glad you discovered him later. :)

Yes, the "Challenged" books. Oy.

LovelyLayla

He also wrote the song " On the Cover of the Rolling Stone " by Dr. Hook

ozma

Shel Silverstein was clearly a weird guy. This makes total sense. I could have guessed this, even. He has some poem about a woman who cuts herself into bits in one of his children books. It's like 'will you love me if...' and she chops off parts of her body or something.

I think the best children's books are about outsiders or written by outsiders or bizarre. My husband knows a bit about children's lit and he was telling me how many of the best kid's writers or illustrators were gay men.

I don't think children's writers are different from other writers. There is often a bit of complexity there, some alternative perspective.




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