If you were ever a grade schooler in desperate need of clever rhymes and you had finally graduated to the point where you were just a hair too mature for the wacky words of a one Dr. Seuss, your grubby little hands likely reached for a heavy Shel Silverstein tome like “Where the Sidewalk Ends” or “A Light in the Attic.” His sprawling books of colorful poetry and beautiful accompanying illustrations (all his own) chronicled all the issues that mattered the most to children. For instance, flipping open a Silverstein book could point you to the plight of a modern day King Midas, who turns everything he touches to raspberry jello. A perfect hell! Or maybe you’d settle on the story of Melinda Mae, the girl who tried to eat an entire whale, an actually does so in the span of 80 years. That’s just silly.
Now, the man who brought so much joy to our childhoods is getting the chance to have his own story told. “A Boy Named Shel: The Life and Times of Shel Silverstein,” a biography by Lisa Rogak, is getting adapted into a biopic from writing partners Chris Shafer and Paul Vicknair (1:30 Train), under production with McG‘s Wonderland Sound and Vision.
“A Boy Named Shel” takes a look at the struggles the author faced in both his professional and personal life before his death in 1999 at the age of 68 from a massive heart attack. Primarily known as a celebrated children’s author and illustrator — you’ve likely sobbed over a copy of “The Giving Tree” and returned it to the local library a little more tear-stained than they probably remember lending it out last time — Silverstein had a rich career outside the pages of kid’s literature. Long, long before he ever wrote a limerick about dirty dishes or little sisters, he was drawing cartoons for Pacific Stars and Stripes during his tenure in the military during the 1950s, and after his time in uniform ended, seeing them appear in Sports Illustrated, This Week, Look, and in his own column in Playboy.
That cunning wordsmith that we all know for his intricate schoolyard rhymes was also a gifted lyricist. Silverstein wrote “A Boy Named Sue,” one of Johnny Cash’s best-known hits, as well as Loretta Lynn’s “One’s On The Way,” and a whole catalog of songs for Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show, including “The Cover of Rolling Stone” and “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan.”
But here’s a big question — is the entire film going to be in rhyme?