Many of Silverstein’s books have been banned quite frequently. Along with A Light in the Attic, number 51 on the American Library Association’s list of 100 most frequently challenged books: 1990–1999, are two other Silverstein classics, The Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends. These are books most of us are familiar with and yet they were all challenged at one time or another because of controversy surrounding some of their content. So why has Silverstein’s work been challenged so often?
The power of children’s literature for kids is that it is regarded as a safe place to venture out and discover more about themselves. That being said, parents and teachers do have the right to protect children from outside influences that they deem inappropriate. I am being completely honest in saying that some of the subject matter in Silverstein’s work includes thoughts about death and some mention of supernatural themes.
Granted, Silverstein has a very dry and somewhat morbid view of childhood, this happens to be what I like most about his illustrations and poems. He writes unabashedly about childhood outside of the realm of possibility; trying to figure his way around the question “What if?” His work is whimsical, humorous and unapologetically humanizing. He persuades his readers to open themselves up to the dubiousness of reality and what is considered strange and unusual. He uses familiar settings and typical characters children can relate to in order to transition children from the realistic world, to the world he has created. Again, it is his perspective and his truth about the world that makes his work so vivid and authentic.
All of this may sound romantic, but it is a formula for successful children’s literature that makes his work so profound. He has sold millions of copies of his work and is revered by many to be one of the most prolific children’s book authors of his time.
Choose to read him or choose to shun his work. That is up to a matter of individual preference. I adore his work and choose to share it with those who do as well.
The Giving Tree
Where the Sidewalk Ends