->''Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child,\\
Listen to the DON'TS,\\
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS,\\
Listen to the NEVER HAVES,\\
Then listen close to me -- \\
Anything can happen, child,\\
ANYTHING can be.''

Shel Silverstein (1930-1999) was best known as an author of offbeat children's poetry. He also wrote picture books, songs, song lyrics (most famously "[[Music/JohnnyCash A Boy Named Sue]]", "[[Music/TheIrishRovers The Unicorn]]" and "The Cover of Rolling Stone"), one-act plays and films. Fans of his mainstream work may be rather [[BleachedUnderpants stunned to hear]] that many of his songs are ''very'' adult in tone, and that he personally was a real-life ChickMagnet who lived for several years in the actual [[Magazine/{{Playboy}} Playboy Mansion]]. He died from a heart attack in May 1999 and was buried in a Chicago cemetery.

His works include:
* ''A Light in the Attic'' (poetry collection)
* ''Where the Sidewalk Ends'' (poetry collection)
* ''Lafcadio, The Lion Who Shot Back'' (children's novel)
* ''Literature/TheGivingTree'' (picture book)
* ''Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book'' (alphabet book consisting of BlatantLies and intentionally terrible advice)
* ''Wordless Dances'' (collection of adult-themed cartoons)
* ''Falling Up'' (poetry collection)
* ''[[{{Spoonerism}} Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook]]'' (poetry collection, published [[AuthorExistenceFailure posthumously]])
* ''Every Thing On It'' (poetry collection, also posthumous, probably the last one)
* ''Film/ThingsChange'', (1988 film directed by Creator/DavidMamet)
!!Tropes appearing in his work:

* AbusiveParents:
** In the poem "Every Lunchtime," the kid's mother packs a venomous snake in his lunch every day.
** In the poem "Quality Time," a father takes his son golfing... and uses him as a tee.
* AffectionateParody: The song "Sylvia's Mother" is an AffectionateParody of heartbroken teen love songs. Inevitably, a lot of people who heard the Dr. Hook version somehow missed the joke.
* AIIsACrapshoot: The poem "My Robot."
* AllGirlsLikePonies: The poem "Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony." Let's just say it doesn't end well.
* AluminumChristmasTrees: [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_zoo People zoos]] have existed, although they're usually not run by talking animals.
* AnAesop: Quite often, though sometimes sliding into FamilyUnfriendlyAesop. For example, in "The Great Smoke Off":
--> ''And underneath his fingers\\
There's a little golden scroll\\
That says, "Beware of being the roller\\
When there's nothing left to roll."''
** And another, from "Perfect High":
--->''"Well, that is that," says [[HermitGuru Baba Fats]], sitting back down on his stone,\\
Facing another thousand years of talking to God alone.\\
"It seems, Lord," says Fats, "it's always the same, old men or bright-eyed youth,\\
It's always easier to sell them some shit than it is to give them the truth."''
* AngryGuardDog: "Christmas Dog". He mistakes SantaClaus for an intruder and chases him away.
* AnnoyingYoungerSibling: "One sister for sale! One sister for sale! One crying and spying young sister for sale!"
* ApocalypseHow: In "Hungry Mungry," when Mungry starts out by eating his parents, and then proceeds to go all the way up to Class X-4 by eating up the United States, the world, the universe, and finally himself!
* ApocalypticLog: The poem "Boa Constrictor."
** Also "True Story" where the last line says they died.
* {{Autocannibalism}}: "Hungry Mungry" ends with Hungry Mungry eating himself, after having already eaten the rest of the universe.
%%* BaldOfAwesome
* BatmanGambit: In "A Boy Named Sue," [[spoiler: the reason the father named him that is because he knew he wouldn't always be there for his son, so he named him Sue so he would grow up hardened and strong from being bullied and picked on.]]
* BestServedCold: The song "A Boy Named Sue."
* BigEater: In ''Where the Sidewalk Ends'', there is a poem about a girl who eats an entire whale. However, she takes eighty-two years to do it. This trope is also [[ExaggeratedTrope exaggerated]] in "Hungry Mungry", where a child ''eats the entire universe.''
* BoundAndGagged: The poem "Kidnapped," complete with illustration of excessively tied and chained girl.
* CasualDangerDialog: "Boa Constrictor" The narrator is talking about it as he is eaten.
* CompanionCube: The poem "Snowball," in which the narrator makes himself a pet snowball. [[spoiler:It melts.]]
* TheComplainerIsAlwaysWrong: The poem "Complainin' Jack."
* ContrivedClumsiness: Recommended in "How Not To Have To Dry The Dishes":
-->If you have to dry the dishes
-->And you drop one on the floor --
-->Maybe they won't let you
-->Dry the dishes anymore.
* CoversAlwaysLie: ''Where the Sidewalk Ends'' has a cover drawing with two children and a dog peering over the edge of the earth. This is from a poem in the book called "The Edge of the World," not "Where the Sidewalk Ends." The title poem is about the grassy spot between the sidewalk and the street, and it has no illustration in the book.
* DaddyHadAGoodReasonForAbandoningYou: "A Boy Named Sue."
* DancingPants: The TropeNamer is a poem in ''Where The Sidewalk Ends''.
* DeathByGluttony: "Pie Problem".
* DeathByIrony:
** The poem "Fear (Barnabas Browning)," where the title character is so afraid of drowning that he refuses to leave his room. He dies by [[spoiler: literally crying an ocean and drowning in his own tears]].
** The poem "Ladies First," in which Pamela Purse is always using the title excuse for her selfishness. When the group gets caught by cannibals and are about to be eaten by the king, she still goes, [[TooDumbToLive "Ladies first!"]]
** In the poem "Lester", the title character gets ThreeWishes. He turns out to have some levels of [[InsufferableGenius smartassery]], as he starts spending his wishes ''on more wishes''. [[spoiler:Somehow he dies at the end, leaving behind a now gigantic pile of wishes unused.]]
* DemBones: In "Day After Halloween," a salesman offers low prices on "skeletons, spirits and haunts"; he's overstocked with them now that the holiday's over.
* DoesThisRemindYouOfAnything: The titular character in "Little Abigail and The Pony" [[spoiler: dying from a broken heart]] sounds an awful lot like a euphemism for suicide.
* ADogAteMyHomework: The narrator of "Blame" says he wrote an extremely wonderful book, but a goat ate it. He wrote a new book in a hurry, but it's not as good as the first one, so he tells people to blame the goat if they don't like the second book. Whether a goat really did eat the book is ambiguous. On one hand, it sounds a lot like a tired old excuse; on the other hand, the poem's illustration is a grinning goat with ripped book pages in its mouth, so maybe he's telling the truth after all.
* DualMeaningChorus: The song "I Got Stoned And I Missed It."
* {{Duck}}: The poem "Web-Foot Woe."
* DoesNotLikeShoes: Characters in his illustrations rarely wear them.
* ElementalRockPaperScissors: "The Bear, the Fire, and the Snow". The bear fears the snow, the snow fears the fire, the fire fears the river, and the river fears the bear.
* EmbarrassingFirstName: "A Boy Named Sue."
* EatsBabies: "Someone Ate The Baby." [[spoiler: [[UnreliableNarrator It was the narrator.]]]]
* EmptySwimmingPoolDive: The punchline of "The Dive."
* ExactWords: Invoked in the poem "Obedient", in which a disobedient student is told by his teacher to go stand in the corner until she tells him he can turn around. He complies -- but she never tells him, and he is forgotten soon after. He stands there in the corner all through the weekend, which leads into summer vacation. Soon after, the school is closed down and relocated, ''all while this boy continues to stand there for forty years'' as he waits for the teacher to say, "Turn around." In conclusion...
-->''This might not be just what she meant,''\\
''But me -- I'm so obedient.''
* FlatWorld: The poem "The Edge of the World." The illustration for this poem is also on the cover to the collection ''Where the Sidewalk Ends.''
* GagPenis: The song "Stacy Brown's Got Two."
* AGoodNameForARockBand: It is one; there's a band called Silverstein.
* HairWings: He has a poem about a boy with ridiculously long hair who was mercilessly teased about it until his weeping caused it to flap like wings, carrying him into the air.
* HeadphonesEqualIsolation: The poem "Headphone Harold."
* HumanAliens: [[spoiler:Downplayed.]] The poem "The Planet of Mars" describes the aliens on Mars as very human-like, [[spoiler: except for the fact that they have heads on their bottoms.]]
* HurricaneOfExcuses: The poem "Sick."
* IWillWaitForYou: The song "In the Hills of Shiloh." Coupled with SanitySlippage.
* KillerRabbit: "Sybil The Magician's Last Show." The eponymous magician can't be bothered to buy food for her rabbit, so [[spoiler:when she goes to pull him out of her hat one night, ''he pulls her into the hat and eats her.'']]
* KnowNothingKnowItAll: In the poem, "Smart", a father gives his "smartest" son a dollar bill, and the boy trades it with someone for two quarters (because two is more than one), then he trades those for three dimes, then four nickels, and finally, five pennies. He then shows his dad, who turns red, closes his eyes and shakes his head, and the boy concludes [[ComicallyMissingThePoint that his dad is very proud of him.]]
* LongList: The poem "No."
* MermaidProblem: The song "The Mermaid."
* MultipleEndings: The poem "Hippo's Hope" concerns a hippopotamus who attempts to fly off a mountain and has three different endings: Happy (the hippo succeeds and soars off into the clouds); Unhappy (the hippo fails and plummets down the mountain, breaking all his bones); and Chicken (the hippo turns around and goes home to have cookies and tea).
* MultipleHeadCase:
** The poem "Us."
** In the poem "Mr. Smeds and Mr. Spats", Mr. Smeds has 21 heads and only one hat. He sells his hat to Mr. Spats, who has 21 hats and only one head.
** This poem from ''Where the Sidewalk Ends'':
-->''Chester come to school and said:''\\
''"Durn, I growed another head!"''\\
''Teacher said: "It's time you knowed''\\
''[[ComicallyMissingThePoint The word is 'grew', not 'growed'.]]"''
* NakedPeopleAreFunny: A number of his poems deal with states of undress, as well as the fact that some illustrations in his works feature images of characters being naked for apparently no reason.
* NeatFreak: The poem "Clean Gene."
* NiceHat: Averted with this short rhyme: "Teddy said it was a hat; so I put it on. Now Dad is saying, 'Where the heck's the toilet plunger gone?!'"
* NoEnding: A number of his poems end with the story unresolved, such as "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout." This trope was the whole ''point'' of his poem "Suspense," where a DamselInDistress is ChainedToARailway by one villain, while TheHero is being held prisoner by another. And then a fifth character shows up, and it's unclear whether he's a hero or villain...
-->''And a crash and a cry,\\
And I'm sorry but I\\
Have forgotten the rest of the story.''
* NotAMask: The poem "Best Mask?" is a rare example where the maskless person is the narrator.
* NothingIsScarier: Sarah's demise at the end of "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout (Would Not Take the Garbage Out)", letting the reader's imagination run wild.
-->And there, in the garbage she did hate,\\
Poor Sarah met an awful fate,\\
That I cannot now relate\\
Because the hour is much too late.
* ANounReferredToAsX: "A Boy Named Sue"
* NowILayMeDownToSleep: Parodied in "Prayer of the Selfish Child."
-->''Now I lay me down to sleep;\\
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.\\
If I should die before I wake,\\
I pray the Lord my toys to break,\\
So none of the other kids can use 'em...\\
* OdeToIntoxication: "I Got Stoned And I Missed It."
* PhonyPsychic: In the poem "Crystal Ball," the psychic accurately predicts everything her customer ate for lunch, then admits that she only figured it out by [[spoiler:looking at her dress.]]
* ThePigPen: The poem "The Dirtiest Man In The World."
* PlaygroundSong: "Boa Constrictor" has turned into one.
* PlayingSick: "Sick."
* PosthumousNarration: The poem "True Story," played for laughs.
* PoweredByAForsakenChild: The poem "The Homework Machine" is about a machine that does homework, but it is run by a small child who does some basic math problems wrong.
* PrayerOfMalice: "Prayer of the Selfish Child."
* {{Pun}}: In the poem "The Monkey," several words are replaced with numbers. Many replacements are painfully forced.
* PyrrhicVictory: Played for laughs in "Big Eating Contest".
* ReptilesAreAbhorrent: "Boa Constrictor."
* RockstarSong: "The Cover of the Rolling Stone," as performed most famously by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, is a parody of this trope; the narrators complain that, despite living the rockstar lifestyle and making money hand over fist, they're ''not famous enough yet''.
* SanitySlippage:
** The song "A Front Row Seat to Hear Ole Johnny Sing," where he goes to increasingly absurd lengths to get Music/JohnnyCash tickets... and his delivery gets increasingly less sane throughout the song, to the point that he's practically screaming at the end.
** A common interpretation of "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan". Marianne Faithfull, who recorded the definitive and most famous version, believed it ended with [[spoiler: Lucy being taken to a mental hospital.]]
* ScareEmStraight: "Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony" ends with Abigail dead since she didn't get the beautiful pony. A note at the end suggests children should read it to their parents if they refuse to buy something for them.
* SingleStanzaSong: The song "26 Second Song."
* {{Spoonerism}}: The entire point of ''Runny Babbit'' is what would happen if they were [[StrangeSyntaxSpeaker grammaticalized]].
* StrippedToTheBone: A rare self-induced example in "It's Hot." It's an unpleasantly warm day, so the character removes his shoes to cool off. He's still hot, so he takes off all his clothes. When this doesn't help either, he takes off his skin and sits around in his bones. Then he despairingly exclaims, "It's ''still'' hot!"
* TakeThatAudience: "Rotten Convention" describes a whole host of gruesome and gross people. It ends with:
-->And everybody there kept askin'...\\
Where were you?
* TemptingFate: In the poem "Cookwitch Sandwich," the kid tells the witch cook to make him a sandwich. [[ExactWords Insert predictable punchline here.]]
* TrademarkFavoriteFood: Peanut butter sandwiches for the king in "Peanut Butter Sandwich," practically to the [[GRatedDrug point of addiction.]]
* TrashOfTheTitans: The poem "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout (Would Not Take The Garbage Out)."
* TurtleIsland: "Hungry Kid Island."
* WhenIWasYourAge: Amply demonstrated in the poem of the same name.
* WhosOnFirst: The poem "The Meehoo with an Exactlywatt."
* WishingForMoreWishes: In "Lester", the eponymous character encounters a goblin that grants him one wish. The boy wishes for two wishes, which he gets, surprisingly enough. So with each wish, he wishes for two more wishes, giving him four wishes. And with each of those wishes, he wishes for two more, giving him eight. This goes on for some time, until the boy dies, presumably from old age. All that's left of him is a humongous pile of unused wishes. The narrator of the story then invites the reader to take a few, and warns the reader not to "waste your wishes on wishing."