Uncle Shelby

Shel Silverstein – sometimes called Uncle Shelby – is one of America’s best-loved children’s writers and illustrators (person who draws pictures for books, magazines). He wrote stories and poems for children that are full of wisdom for adults. Silverstein died in 1999, but his works live on (continue to exist; be popular).

Silverstein is probably known best for his poem The Giving Tree, which later became the title for a collection of his poems. The Giving Tree is a story of a loving friendship between a boy and a tree, a friendship that grows and changes as the boy and the tree get older. It starts like this:

Once there was a tree…
and she loved a little boy.
And everyday the boy would come
and he would gather her leaves
and make them into crowns and play king of the forest.
He would climb up her trunk and swing from her branches
and eat apples.
And they would play hide-and-go-seek.
And when he was tired,
he would sleep in her shade.
And the boy loved the tree…
very much.
And the tree was happy.

You can listen to Silverstein read The Giving Tree in this short 1973 animated video.

Not too long ago, I discovered a video of Silverstein’s 1970 appearance on The Johnny Cash Show. Johnny Cash was a very popular country-western singer and guitar player – Jeff talked about him on one of the first English Cafes.

On the show, after singing a funny short duet (song for two musicians) with Cash, Silverstein sings a poem called Daddy What If, a conversation between a father and his son. As you may know, many of those conversations begin with a child’s question; so does this one:

(Daddy what if the sun stop shinin’* what would happen then?)
If the sun stopped shinin’ you’d be so surprised
You’d stare (look for a long time without moving) at the heavens with wide open eyes
And the wind would carry your light to the skies
And the sun would start shinin’ again

*shinin’ = shining

If you want to read more of Silverstein’s poems, you can find many of them on the Poem Hunter website. You can learn more about his books on his website.

Shel Silverstein isn’t the only writer whose children’s stories and poems are enjoyed by adults. C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia is another good example, probably my all-time favorite. Two of my favorite contemporary American writers of children’s stories and poems are Patricia Polacco (start with Thank You, Mr. Falker) and Faith Ringgold (look at Tar Beach). Polacco and Ringgold are both artists as well as writers and illustrate their own books.

One of the special benefits of works by writers like Silverstein, Lewis, Polacco, and Ringgold is that they are full of interesting, easy-to-understand English (the illustrations help!) – just what you need to improve your English!

~ Warren Ediger – creator of Successful English.

 Photo of Shel Silverstein courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

This entry was posted in Life in the United States. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Uncle Shelby

  1. Dan says:

    Hello Guys,

    I did not know that referring to a tree one must use the feminine.
    I knew that, when referring to a ship\vessel.

    Nice and simple the first one, isn’t it?


  2. Betty says:

    Thank you very much indeed, Warren, for once again given me one of the best lessons to learn.

    I have enjoyed every word, every poem, and the video you supplied in this blog.

    The video makes people weep.  I miss my mother, she was a great woman who was loved by many people.

    I am a bit worry about my iphone 4S.

    The picture in the blog is showing a wrong picture.  It happened in Jeff’s last article as well.  Jeff’s article is showing the correct picture now.  But Warren’s article is showing the picture for the ‘7 reasons you want to Tip your Waitress’.

    I don’t know whether my iphone is infected with virus or any of my friends have the same problem.

    Thanks again, Warren, see you again soon.

    Betty 🙂

  3. Peter says:

    Dear warren,
    Thanks for the tip
    It is so true.
    Stories for children are easy to grasp.they accomodate Learners with common words and Expresions
    Animated films are beneficial for language learner as well
    They are beneficial in particular to language Learners both at elementary and intermediate level.
    I remeber reading The adventures of TinTin like all the time as a kid,in English of course. It helped me a lot in improving my
    Basic Englush skills. Simple sentence structure and words help Learners to lay out a solid ground.
    It gives us the base we need.
    I Totally agree with you


  4. Peter says:

    Betty ,
    I interact with eslpod using iPhone 4 like always,the problem you just mentioned never happened to me. The image on warren’s post is a mug shot of the famous writer and it has been the same since the emerge of the post.
    And the latest Jeff’s entery image never changed.

    It can’t be a virus attack or sth to that effect.
    It must be some sort of Internet problems.
    I m not technical. I mean I m not Internet savvy, though.
    U need and expert opinion.I mean ,I would ask an expert.
    But ,to my best of knowledge , viral infection never mixed up images unless it is a mischievous virous:)
    However, sometimes it happens that IPone starts acting up. The best I always do when I have such a situation is ,” I wait it out.”
    iPhone usually correct itself.
    There is another solution to it that may work. Keep pressing the botton on the top right corner till you have IPone off,then wait for 20,30 seconds and reboot your iPhone. I mean,press the same Button. The minute you press it an image of apple compony’s logo which is ,as you know , a chipped apple comes on. When the image came on wait a bit and iPhone reboots itself.
    That most likely will resolve the problem.


    The Geek:))

  5. Dan says:

    Hey Betty,

    Why don’t you just ask to Siri “the intelligent assistant that is there to help” just kidding

    Seriously, have you used Siri? how is it like, speaking with a device? does it work?


  6. lilian says:

    Hi Jeff.I am really surprised since that poem about boy and the tree was my favorit childhood poem.You know it was in our school book but I did not know anything about its poet.thx a million ,it reminded me my beautiful memory

  7. Betty says:

    Hi Peter

    Thank you very much indeed for your advices about the iphone and virus infection.

    I bet Steve Jobs is very angry at me now because I have been the most stupid user of his product.

    When I first used the phone, I had to hold the phone within a few inches of my eyes because I could not see the tiny words on the screen.  My brother told me to give it to my daughter.  He said iphone was not for old people like me.

    I did offer my iphone to my daughter who persuaded my husband to buy it for my birthday.  She did not want to have it, she said she wanted me to use it.  Both my daughters borrowed it from time to time, and they taught me how to use it.

    Sorry I digressed.

    The problem of a wrong image on my phone screen has gone now, probably because it has rebooted after its battery went out and recharged.

    I will remember your advices and I shall reboot it immediately when I have any problem next time.

    Thanks again.


    Peter, please forgive me for being so nosy, you are very clever with a lot of things (including singing), but why do you give yourself nicknames which I did not know the meanings prior to looking up the dictionary after reading your messages.

    The nicknames do not reflect the true Peter that we know of here.

    Nevertheless, I am grateful for the chance to learn more English words.

    Btw, do you still go to your toastmasters club?  I brought my elder daughter along to a joint club meeting (4 clubs together, special with games etc) a few days ago.  Some other members brought their children as well because it was summer holiday and our children were free.

    My daughter enjoyed the meeting.  She told her younger sister that everyone there did not really know each other that well, but everyone talked to each other like old friends and the atmosphere was so good.  My younger daughter asked whether everyone were drunk.  We were not, but it did look like we were.

    We had the meeting in a prestigious Japanese Club and we had genuine good standard Japanese food after the meeting.

    I did not eat too much because I sat far from the food, but I had to pay the same amount of money as everyone.  Despite of that, I really appreciate the good food and good time.

    I must remember I need to work hard on doing the projects to achieve the awards though.

    See you again soon.

    Betty 🙂

    P.S. A Big Thank You to ESLPOD.com in telling me about Toastmasters Club in the ‘Learning Guide’. I hope more people will become Premium Members which
    helps to keep this website going.

    Hi Jeff, if you have read Myo ko ko’s transcripts of “Secrets To Improving Your English (Part-1)” in Responses to “Podcasts This Week (July 2, 2012)”, you would have known how much we want to have the transcripts for all your older episodes. If you give us transcripts for all the older and oldest episodes, it may attract more people to sign up to become premium members which in return will benefit everyone in this website. I personally enjoy all the earlier episodes but I was disappointed to find no transcripts for them.

  8. Betty says:

    Hi Dan

    Thanks for your question.

    Before I continue, I want to let you know that I have enjoyed reading your messages, very much.

    Last time you asked whether you had misused this blog to give out personal information.

    I think we all want to tell people about our life.  That’s why there are so many autobiography.

    It is very strange, why do we (me included) worry about writing personal matter in a blog?  The chance of us meeting blog friends are very slim.  If I visit Italy, even if I bump into Dan in a wine bar, I will not know it was the same Dan who have been telling us his personal life in ESLPOD.com.

    Even if I know this is Dan who we know a lot about his personal life, so what?  We all are human being who have many problems in our life.

    Despite all the words above, I still dare not to reveal too much about the problems that I have to encountered in my life because it involves many other people’s secrets.

    Yes, they are secrets, especially that of my fathers!

    I feel better now that I have told the whole world that my father has many secrets.

    Oops, sorry, Dan, I was so eager to tell people my personal life that I forgot to tell you about my experience of using ‘Siri’.

    I asked him: ‘What is your name?

    He answered: ‘My name is Siri.  But you knew that already’.

    When I asked him again and again, he answered again and again: ‘My name? It’s Siri’.

    I think he got fed up with this old woman.

    It’s good fun asking Siri questions, but it can be dangerously expensive.  At one time, he could not understand what my baby nephew was talking about, he dialed up someone on my phone contact list.  Its as dangerous as that. 

    I really enjoy using the iphone. Will I get a commission from Apple?

    Nice talking to you.

    See you again soon.

    Betty 🙂

  9. Betty says:

    Oops, big mistake in my message to Dan above.

    The sentence: ‘Yes, they are secrets, especially that of my fathers!’

    Should be read as: ‘Yes, they are secrets, especially that of my father’s!’


    Dear Lucy, you have been teaching us the importance of punctuation:
    Using Punctuation in English – blog dated TUESDAY, AUGUST 31ST, 2010

    The Power of Punctuation – blog dated NOVEMBER 9TH, 2010

    Just one ‘apostrophe’ turn one father into many fathers.

    That’s an unforgivable mistake.  So I am here to express my regret in making the big mistake.

  10. Dan says:

    Hello Betty,

    Thanks for your reply it was fun reading that.

    About your Father’s secrets, that makes me think about Hercule Poirot that at the end of his investigations with the help of his little grey cells
    when he gathers every suspect and everyone of them has a secret.

    You should not have said that, now i want to know about that secret:-)


  11. Betty says:

    Hi Dan,

    Thank you for asking about my father’s secret which I am going to keep as a secret until I probably write about it in a story book later when I have time.

    Or, I may take the secret to my grave.

    Just give you a tip, I think it is something very common.  My father tried to keep this secret from me but someone told me about it recently.

    He was very sad that he as a very old and frail man could not do anything to keep his own secret.

    I guess some people enjoy having some secrets in their life.

    People always say that human cannot carry money to graves so there is no point making money and not using the money.

    Well, at least secret is something they can carry to their graves, that is, if they are successful in keeping them as secrets.

    My father is too old and he failed in his attempt to keep his own secret.

    Too bad! 🙁

  12. Betty says:

    I could not find a link in this article to the video of Silverstein’s 1970 appearance on The Johnny Cash Show.

    But I wanted to see Silverstein singing the poem called ‘Daddy What If’ so much that I searched the web and I found it.

    I was so happy to find it and to hear Silverstein singing the poem.

    Before he sang, he said “I’m really proud of the relationship I have with my dad.  I really love him a lot”.

    I hope to find out more about his father, but the only description about him and his father in the wikipedia was: “Silverstein was born into a Jewish family.”

    Jeff revealed his excellent relationship with his father who did radio broadcasting together with him when he was very young.

    I don’t know whether Shel Silverstein’s father was alive when he  said “I’m really proud of the relationship I have with my dad.  I really love him a lot”.

    He should be very proud if he was alive to hear his son saying that.

    My children really love their father, there is no doubt about it.  However, traditionally Chinese are very veiled and almost never able to say it the word ‘love’ in front of their parents.  My children are modern day children but still I have never heard them say it in front of my husband.  They might have written about it in their compositions.  I used to write everything in my school compositions when I was little so I know this is the most common method of expressing ones feelings.

    Children’s feelings normally channelled in their writings which may never be read by the parents.  The best the ‘love’ is felt is when the children are older and bought something for the parents or treat them to dinner etc.

    Now the ‘feeling’ has become ‘material’.  If you love me, buy me a diamond ring.  If you love me, take me to an expensive holiday.  But the demand for ‘love’ escalates.

    I think I am writing loads of rubbish here.  Perhaps I should try to improve my thinking skill before I can improve my writing skill.

    Bye for now. 😉

  13. Warren says:

    The link Betty refers to for Shel Silverstein’s appearance with Johnny Cash was accidentally left out of the post. You can find it if you do a Google search using the names Silverstein and Cash, then looking at the video results of the search. The name of the video on YouTube is: Shel Silverstein on the ‘Johnny Cash Show’.

Comments are closed.