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A Boy Named Shel Paperback – 31 Mar 2009

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Product Description

A Boy Named Shel The first-ever biography of the one-of-kind author who created "The Giving Tree, Where the Sidewalk Ends "and "A Light in the Attic" Full description

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 22 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Great Subject, Poor Writing 3 Aug. 2008
By Luxx Mishley - Published on
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.
32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Good Research Does not a Good Book Make 10 Dec. 2007
By O. Kagan - Published on
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.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A Book About Shel, How Do You Do...You're Not Very Good! 11 Jun. 2008
By Aco - Published on
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.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Interesting, but... 10 May 2009
By Robert Whitaker Sirignano - Published on
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.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
missed opportunity 12 Oct. 2010
By Alf Landon - Published on
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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