Six Animations of Stories and Poems by Shel Silverstein

Shel Sil­ver­stein, beloved poet, song­writer, children’s author, and illus­tra­tor, per­fect­ed an instant­ly rec­og­niz­able visu­al and lit­er­ary style that has imprint­ed itself on sev­er­al gen­er­a­tions. We remem­ber the heart­felt whim­sy of sto­ries like The Giv­ing Tree (1964) and poet­ry col­lec­tions like Where the Side­walk Ends (1974) and A Light in the Attic (1981) as we remem­ber child­hood best friends, first crush­es, and sum­mer camp exploits. Many of us raised on his work have gone on to have kids of our own, so we get to revis­it those books we loved, with their weird, irrev­er­ent twists and turns and wild imag­i­na­tive flights. Our kids get a bonus, though, thanks to the web, since they can also see sev­er­al Sil­ver­stein poems and sto­ries in ani­mat­ed form on Youtube. Today, we bring you six of those ani­ma­tions. Sate your nos­tal­gia, share with your kids, and redis­cov­er the utter­ly dis­tinc­tive voice of the pre-emi­nent children’s poet.

We don’t get to hear Silverstein’s actu­al voice in the ani­ma­tions of “Runny’s Hind Keart”and “Run­ny on Rount Mush­more,” above, two of many poems made almost entire­ly of spooner­isms from the book and audio CD Run­ny Bab­bit: A Bil­ly Sook, posthu­mous­ly pub­lished in 2005.

Instead, Sil­ver­stein sound-alike Den­nis Locor­riere—for­mer lead singer of the band Dr. Hook—narrates. (Sil­ver­stein wrote a num­ber of songs for the band.) The poems are as fun for kids to read aloud as they are to untan­gle. Read full text here.

Just above, we get vin­tage Sil­ver­stein, read/singing “Ick­le Me, Pick­le Me, Tick­le Me Too” from Where the Side­walk Ends. Accom­pa­nied by an acoustic gui­tar, Sil­ver­stein turns the poem into a folk bal­lad, his voice ris­ing and crack­ing off-key. You may know that Sil­ver­stein wrote the John­ny Cash hit “A Boy Named Sue”—you may not know that he record­ed his own ver­sion and sev­er­al dozen more songs besides. The video above offers a fair rep­re­sen­ta­tion of his musi­cal style.

Sil­ver­stein pub­lished his award-win­ning col­lec­tion of poet­ry Falling Up in 1996, three years before his death and many years after my child­hood, so I didn’t have the plea­sure of read­ing poems like “The Toy Eater” as a kid. The poem is an excel­lent exam­ple of what calls Silverstein’s “deft mix­ing of the sly and the seri­ous, the macabre, and the just plain sil­ly.”

Hear Sil­ver­stein above read “Back­wards Bill,” a poem I remem­ber quite well as one of my favorites from A Light in the Attic. His raspy sing-song nar­ra­tion turns the poem into a fun­ny lit­tle melody kids will remem­ber and love singing along to.

Final­ly, we bring you an ani­mat­ed excerpt from Silverstein’s beloved 1963 fable Laf­ca­dio: The Lion Who Shot Back, Silverstein’s first book writ­ten exclu­sive­ly for chil­dren. He is so well known as a writer and illus­tra­tor for kids that it’s easy to for­get that Sil­ver­stein first made a career in the fifties and six­ties as a car­toon­ist for adults, pub­lish­ing most of his work in Play­boy. Sil­ver­stein nev­er for­mal­ly stud­ied poet­ry and hadn’t con­sid­ered writ­ing it until his edi­tor at Harp­er & Row, Ursu­la Nord­strom, urged him to. With­out her inter­ven­tion, he’d sure­ly still be remem­bered for his icon­ic visu­al style and song­writ­ing, but mil­lions of kids would have missed out on the weird­ness of his warped imag­i­na­tion. Sil­ver­stein showed us we didn’t have to be sen­ti­men­tal or schmaltzy to be open-heart­ed, car­ing, and curi­ous. His work endures because he had the unique abil­i­ty to speak to chil­dren in a lan­guage they under­stand with­out con­de­scend­ing or dumb­ing things down. See sev­er­al more short ani­ma­tions at Silverstein’s offi­cial web­site.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Studs Terkel Inter­views Bob Dylan, Shel Sil­ver­stein, Maya Angelou & More in New Audio Trove

18 Ani­ma­tions of Clas­sic Lit­er­ary Works: From Pla­to and Shake­speare, to Kaf­ka, Hem­ing­way and Gaiman

John­ny Cash: Singer, Out­law, and, Briefly, Tele­vi­sion Host

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.

by | Permalink | Comments (7) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (7)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.