Search more than 3,000 biographies of contemporary and classic poets.

Shel Silverstein


Shel Silverstein was born on September 25, 1930 in Chicago, Illinois, and began writing and drawing at a young age. 

Silverstein is best known as the author of iconic books of prose and poetry for young readers. His works include such modern classics as A Light in the Attic (HarperCollins, 1981), recipient of the School Library Journal Best Books Award in 1982; Where the Sidewalk Ends (Harper & Row, 1974), a 1974 Michigan Young Readers Award winner; and The Giving Tree (Harper & Row, 1964). Runny Babbit (HarperCollins, 2005), a posthumous poetry collection of spoonerisms, was conceived and completed before his death.

A cartoonist, playwright, poet, performer, and recording artist, Silverstein was also a Grammy-winning and Oscar-nominated songwriter. His books, which he also illustrated, are characterized by a deft mixing of the sly and the serious, the macabre and the silly. His unique imagination and bold brand of humor is beloved by countless adults and children throughout the world. He died on May 10, 1999.

Selected Bibliography


Runny Babbit (HarperCollins, 2005)
Falling Up (HarperCollins, 1996)
A Light in the Attic (HarperCollins, 1981)
Where the Sidewalk Ends (Harper & Row, 1974)
Don’t Bump the Glump! And Other Fantasies (W. H. Allen Ltd., 1964)


The Missing Piece Meets the Big O (HarperCollins, 1981)
The Missing Piece (HarperCollins, 1976)
The Giving Tree (Harper & Row, 1964)
A Giraffe and a Half (HarperCollins, 1964)
Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back (Harper & Row, 1963)


By This Poet



"I cannot go to school today,"
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
"I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I'm going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I've counted sixteen chicken pox
And there's one more—that's seventeen,
And don't you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut—my eyes are blue—
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I'm sure that my left leg is broke—
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button's caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained,
My 'pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow's bent, my spine ain't straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is—what?
What's that? What's that you say?
You say today is. . .Saturday?
G'bye, I'm going out to play!"

Mr. Grumpledump's Song

Everything's wrong,
Days are too long,
Sunshine's too hot,
Wind is too strong.
Clouds are too fluffy,
Grass is too green,
Ground is too dusty,
Sheets are too clean.
Stars are too twinkly,
Moon is too high,
Water's too drippy,
Sand is too dry.
Rocks are too heavy,
Feathers too light,
Kids are too noisy,
Shoes are too tight.
Folks are too happy,
Singin' their songs.
Why can't they see it?
Everything's wrong!