I was wrong.
I had no idea when I wrote my first post that my cousin Rachel had a Shel Silverstein connection back when he was still alive. She worked at HarperCollins Children’s Books and handled some of Shel’s stuff. What are the odds?
Now, here’s the craziest thing I could think of in relation to a creepy author portrait like that: Rachel says that Shel picked out that picture himself!
I worked at HarperCollins Children’s Books while Shel was still alive, and believe it or not, that photo was on The Giving Tree even then. It actually pretty much sums up his personality. Amazing books, but very elusive, not warm or fuzzy , and if I recall, refused to allow us to send him the cartons of fan mail he received. Is the photo even more scary since he chose it?
According to Rachel, “Shel controlled everything about the publication and reprints of his books– right down to how heavy he required the paper to be.”
It sort of changes the way you think about Shel Silverstein, no? I mean, what kind of person picks a creepy picture like that to represent themselves on the back of their beloved children’s classic?
When you combine this knowledge with the fact that he did a lot of cartooning for “Playboy” in the 1950s and ’60s, suddenly you see Shel Silverstein in a whole new light. Before now, I always envisioned Silverstein as the cuddly, grandfather type with a wicked sense of humor, but apparently this wasn’t so much the case. Mind-boggling, no?
Anyway, food for thought. If nothing else, it’s hilarious to me that anyone would pick that awful picture to represent themselves on the back of a book. Maybe he thought it was funny how scary-looking the picture is? It certainly made ME laugh.