How Old Is Shel Silverstein

Family Background

Shel Silverstein was born on September 25, 1930 in Chicago, Illinois to Nathan and Helen Silverstein. His father was a Russian-born electrician and his mother was a secretary. Shel attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, Roosevelt University, and the Art Institute of Chicago. He had a long-term love affair with the world of art early on in life, which dramatically influenced his later work.


Silverstein began his career with a variety of odd jobs, including working for a greeting card company, teaching English in Mexico for a year, and even serving in the U.S. Army for 15 months. After his stint in the military, Silverstein worked for the Chicago Sun-Times, where he wrote a daily cartoon panel called “Heart Break Hotel” until 1978. Silverstein also wrote and served as the artist for Playboy Magazine from 1956 to 1970. During this time, Silverstein had submitted poems and lyrics to the magazine, and they were so successful that he had a regular column in Playboy and featured in the New Yorker.

Writing Career

While Silverstein worked at the Chicago Sun-Times, he published his first children’s book, The Giving Tree, in 1964. After the success of The Giving Tree, Silverstein published Where the Sidewalk Ends in 1974, which would become his most famous work. His other well-known works are A Light in the Attic, Falling Up, and Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book. Silverstein wrote over 100 books and translated 10 from other languages. Silverstein was also a playwright, songwriter, and screenplay writer.

Personal Life

Silverstein was married and divorced three times throughout his lifetime. He had one daughter, Shoshanna, with his first wife Susan, whom he married in 1956 and divorced in 1969. After Susan, Silverstein was married to Linda, but the couple soon divorced in 1972. He then married Peggy in 1982, but the relationship came to an end in 1992. Silverstein then moved to Florida, where he died on May 6, 1999, at the age of 68.


Silverstein was declared a “National Treasure” by the U.S. Library of Congress in 2009, and a television movie A Boy Named Shel premiered on HBO in 2016, honoring his life and achievements. His books remain beloved by fans, and they have sold more than 20 million copies as of 2019. Through his writing, Silverstein still speaks to children and adults today, with his special blend of fun, irreverence, and heartfelt sentiment,

Awards and Honors

Shel Silverstein won a Grammy Award in 1975 for Best Album for Children for “Where the Sidewalk Ends”. The Sidney Taylor Book Award was also renamed to The Sydney Taylor Book Award for Shel Silverstein, and Silverstein also won numerous awards from the American Library Association, including the Kate Greenaway Medal and the Randolph Caldecott Medal. Silverstein’s impact on literature was also acknowledged by the National Endowment for the Arts when it awarded him a Weissberger Playwrights Award in 1990 and a Creative Writing Fellowship in 1995.



Shel Silverstein’s influence can be seen in the works of many writers, musicians, and filmmakers today. Silverstein’s offbeat, comedic style is often likened to authors and illustrators such as Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, and Maurice Sendak. Silverstein’s work has also been sampled by numerous musical artists, including Taylor Swift, Dr. Dre, and Guns N’ Roses. In addition, Silverstein is also credited with inspiring generations of writers, rappers, and storytellers, due to his innovative approach to language.


At the age of 68, Shel Silverstein left us with a rich legacy of work. He was a prolific writer and artist, who left an indelible mark on literature and the arts. But more importantly, he was a gifted storyteller and songwriter, who captured the imaginations of readers, and spoke to the heart of children and adults alike. In, so doing, Shel Silverstein made the world a more magical, more inspiring place for us all.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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