Reflecting on Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein's "Reflection" on the Upside-Down Man - peoplewhowrite
I have a few boards on Pinterest where I pin books I’ve read over the last couple of decades and as I was pinning to my “What I read in the ’80s” board, I came across Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. I, honestly, couldn’t/can’t remember the story, but I remembered the cover, and subsequently, how it made me feel as a kid.

Many children’s books from my childhood featured either multiple children, children with animals, animals alone, or close-ups of the young protagonist so there was always this feeling that the main character had this brimming social life. Even when the story admitted the protagonist was socially awkward, the close-ups conveyed a connection the reader was supposed to find in the main character.

Where animals were involved, the pets became proxy for the ideas above — which all make sense. These are safe, tried and true tropes for children’s books.  But The Giving Tree cover was a wide shot of a kid alone. Just him, his backpack, and this (his?) tree. The crisp red apple about to tumble into his hands.

I’m sure I didn’t articulate it this way when I was a kid, but today I can say I connected with the image because it validated that, even though I was young, it was okay to be alone in my own head, and mull over the world around me (which I was and did).  So when I came across this image of Silverstein’s “Reflection” poem on Facebook (via Mike Geffner, Founder, Producer and Director of The Inspired Word), it leapt out at me. Gave me that same safe, thoughtful feeling.

Just read these incredibly fine lines. Just beautiful.