Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein

This piece, “The Thinker of Tender Thoughts” by Shel Silverstein, has always been one of my favorite pieces of art. My mother is a 4th grade teacher and absolutely loves old TV shows that carry subtle but important messages about how to be a good person and what-not. Shel Silverstein’s poems and art commonly have themes of being a free person or being a good person, but always stick to the comical side. Looking at it later in life, the message behind “the Thinker of Tender Thoughts” almost makes me want to cry, as it is so simple and relatable. Simple as lines on paper, the look on his face when he decides to fit in by cutting his wily hair is so expressive and content, whereas many other pieces that address this type of theme treat the “trimming” stage (“giving in to the man”) as a very negative thing.
I hope kids still have to read Shel Silverstein’s work because it is some very pure, happy work. I haven’t kept up on children’s book but I’d guess that few works surpass Shel Silverstein’s work in honesty, morality, and meaning.

“I will not play at tug o’ war.
I’d rather play at hug o’ war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.”


2 responses to “Shel Silverstein

  1. Cute 🙂 Sometimes I wonder how much little kids understand (Silverstein and Van Allsburg both) or how differently they interpret this kind of work. I think maybe adults look at it with foreboding and maybe even a pessimistic or depressed acceptance of reality…who knows with a kid? The man in the cartoon above…has he been broken or has he reached a more enlightened maturity? Like Allsburg, deceptively simple- a whole kick of meaning packed in a few lines and words.

    • I like to think that the man really is content and hasn’t just “bowed to the man”, but accepted that he is different and that for the people who are different from him to be able to accept him (because of their own flawed perspective), he has to be the one to make changes. I love that he keeps a flower on his jacket once the hair is cut.
      I’d guess that Silverstein’s drawing here would fly far over a kid’s head, as there is so much social context inside of that picture.

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