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A Boy Named Shel: The Life and Times of Shel Silverstein Hardcover – November 13, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (November 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312353596
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312353599
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #232,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Advance Praise for A Boy Named Shel

“I didn’t think any biography could do justice to one of the few honest-to-goodness geniuses of our time, a walking paradox who wore a cloak of complexity and elusiveness, but Lisa Rogak has done an exemplary job of it.”---Otto Penzler, The Mysterious Bookshop

“Shel Silverstein...was a genius in a dozen genres, the last of the real Renaissance men. He loved life and lived it more intensely than most of us dare to dream. There’s a surprise on every page as Lisa Rogak tells the whole untold story of this truly fabulous character.”---Dr. Demento, syndicated radio personality

About the Author

Lisa Rogak is the author of more than forty books. Her most recent biography was The Man Behind the Da Vinci Code: An Unauthorized Biography of Dan Brown. She lives in New Hampshire.


More About the Author

I'm an independent journalist going on more than 30 years as a full-time writer, a fact that surprises even me! In that time, I've written about everything from high-tech and cats to food and travel.

Writing has provided me with a fascinating, adventurous life. I wake up each morning looking forward to discovering what new things I'll learn that day. After all this time, it never ceases to amaze me that I have been able to make my living by indulging my curiosity and asking total strangers really nosy questions...

My latest books include Dogs of Courage: The Heroism and Heart of Working Dogs Around the World, Dan Brown: The Unauthorized Biography, and Pope Francis in His Own Words.

After spending a year traveling around the world as a full-time vagabond, I now split my time between New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Customer Reviews

I learned some interesting stuff reading this book, but it doesn't really do him justice.
Alf Landon
Silverstein was one of the greatest observers of life in the 20th century and attempting to capture all of him in one book fits one of my favorite cartoons of Shel's.
J. Guild
Perhaps the estate didn't authorize, though Rogak seems to have access to many of his friends and has done research to quote previous interviews.
Aco

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Luxx Mishley on August 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"A Boy Named Shel" is really a mixed bag. On one hand, it is an incredibly interesting read, due entirely to its subject matter - Shel Silverstein was a fascinating individual who lived life to the fullest, and his passion for creation and zest for the here-and-now clearly comes through in the telling of his life.

On the other hand, Rogak is a horrible author and biographer. The biography itself is comprised largely of quotes by people who knew him, and in that respect I believe Rogak should only really claim editorial (as opposed to authorial) rights. Her actual writing is poorly organized and even more poorly executed, and would greatly detract from a less luminous subject than Silverstein. It is unfortunate that such a creative and successful person fell prey to such a biographer.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful By O. Kagan on December 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As soon as I saw the biography of one of my favorite artists on the shelf, I knew I had to take it home with me. Four days after I had the pleasure of starting this book I am relieved to be through with it.

Lisa Rogak's biography is well-researched, that no one can deny. Unfortunately this fact is made very obvious by her constant reliance on quoting her interviews making the book seem more like an magazine article then a full-length biography. Further to the point, after reading less than halfway through the book I began to feel like Ms. Rogak was regurgitating the same descriptive lines (even going as far as using the same syntax) to describe reasoning for different events. Surely, certain personal characteristics stay similar throughout a person's life, but to use the same syntax and employ the same tropes (to give one example: "...nothing in his life could have prepared Shel for the tragedy that would follow..." at least three times, in those very words) is plain lazy on the part of a writer.

Shel Silverstein lived an exciting life, was clearly a complex character, and a beautiful artist. It's too bad my initial thrill at the discovery of this biography quickly dissipated when I realized that its author was simply not up to the task of writing a book to match the complexity of its subject. A good biographer is supposed to make a life seem like an exciting plot, constantly opening up new approaches to its' subject; in this the author failed. Lisa Rogak's "A Boy Named Shel" was more like a chronology interspersed by interview excerpts than a self-containing biography. The only reason I waded through the bad writing was my overwhelming interest in Shel Silverstein and the book's paltry length.

I know there are a couple of other biographies of Shel Silverstein in existence, my hope is that they are better than this one.

Not recommended.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Robert J Whitaker on May 10, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I tend to agree with the other reviewers here. This book is only half of what it could be. The writing is bad, clumsy and cliche ridden.

However, I read it through in one sitting, found it interesting and bemoaned that it was the only biography of the man so far. It is not overly detailed, but more like surface tension.

With a subject like Shel Silverstein, you could have a book three times as long, with many pictures and photos.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Aco on June 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I echo the sentiment that this is not a great book. While Shel Silverstein was a remarkable and influential figure (certainly he was in my life), Mrs. Rogak's language and presentation makes for a seemingly unauthorized biography. Why there is one early cartoon featured in the whole book and not one poem I find unforgiveable. A cartoonist and poet and song writer and not a significant representation of such work in a bio? Perhaps the estate didn't authorize, though Rogak seems to have access to many of his friends and has done research to quote previous interviews. Silverstein was a special bird, full of contradictions and ever creative until the end but this book, which covers chronologically his life, doesn't dig into anything of significance.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Alf Landon on October 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Shel Silverstein was a fascinating dude--he wrote songs, plays, short stories, cartoons, and of course, children's books. He stayed out until 6:00 AM, but rarely drank and didn't do drugs. He didn't like kids, but made truckloads of money writing children's books. He was not a particularly attractive fellow, but slept with lots, and lots, and lots of women.

I learned some interesting stuff reading this book, but it doesn't really do him justice. There's a lot left unsaid in this book. For instance, I never got a sense for how he actually met all of these famous people--how did he get in with Bobby Bare, and the like? Somewhere around page 180, the author says how important his mother was to him, but that's the first mention of his mother that I remember. This is a frustrating book. I want more. And I want it to be better written.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mark Beecher on January 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
It was warm and tasty. To attempt to unravel Shel would be a fools challenge. Lisa is only half a fool but I enjoyed that half quite a bit.
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Format: Hardcover
I grew up loving Shel Silverstein's books. Even today (MANY years later), I can still recite his poems ("I cannot go to school today said little Penny Anne McKay...") And I had the pleasure of being a close friend to Shel's incredible daughter (who he did not raise when I knew her). So, I was very excited when I came across this book by Lisa Rogak.

"A Boy Named Shel" is an easy-to-read and intriguing exploration of this amazing writer and illustrator's life. We learn not only about his exotic experiences (spending time at the Playboy Mansion for weeks at a time, living on a house boat...) but also get a glimpse into the man he was: his strong introspection and independent thinking coupled with his outgoing creativity. Thank you, Ms. Rogak, for sharing this story with us!
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