Children's Lit

12 Shel Silverstein Quotes That’ll Inspire You and Your Kids

Silverstein's poems are known for being funny, but they're also good for your kids.

by Alicia Kort
Originally Published: 
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1968:  Photo of Shel Silverstein  (Photo by Alice Ochs/Michael Ochs Archives/G...
Alice Ochs/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Children’s author, singer, and cartoonist Shel Silverstein completely changed children’s literature. Along with Dr. Seuss, he’s one of the most innovative children’s authors of all time — though because Silverstein is in the shadow of Seuss, we tend to forget how profound his work reads.

Silverstein was extraordinarily prolific, penning hundreds of poems and more than 1,000 songs before he passed away in 1999. Although many of his poems are hilarious, parents might only remember the goofiness, which could make Silverstein seem less accessible than his peers. Additionally, the fame of The Giving Tree is arguably part of why Silverstein gets overlooked, as it’s a masterpiece but isn’t really representative of the man’s body of work.

Want proof not all Silverstein has the macabre and bittersweet quality of The Giving Tree? Check out these twelve quotes. Silverstein taught children simple, heartfelt lessons in his poetry. The following are just a few great samples.

12. Show Who You Really Are

“She had blue skin,

And so did he.

He kept it hid

And so did she.

They searched for blue

Their whole life through,

Then passed right by-

And never knew.”

—Shel Silverstein, Every Thing On It

11. Don’t Just Spend Your Time Dreaming

“He wasted his wishes on wishing.”

—Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

10. Honesty Is Much Better Than Flattery

“Tell me I’m clever, Tell me I’m kind, Tell me I’m talented, Tell me I’m cute, Tell me I’m sensitive, Graceful and wise, Tell me I’m perfect—But tell me the truth.”

—Shel Silverstein, Falling Up

9. Remember to Look Up Once in a While and Appreciate What’s Around You

“It’s amazing the difference

A bit of sky can make.”

—Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

8. You Have to Put Work in if You Expect to Receive Anything in Return

“How much good inside a day?

Depends how good you live ’em.

How much love inside a friend?

Depends how much you give ’em.”

—Shel Silverstein, A Light in the Attic

7. Keep Moving

“If the track is tough and the hill is rough,

THINKING you can just ain’t enough!”

—Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

6. Everyone Is Wearing a Mask in Public

“Underneath my outside face

There’s a face that none can see.

A little less smiley,

A little less sure,

But a whole lot more like me.”

—Shel Silverstein, Every Thing On It

5. Enjoy Life’s Journey

“There are no happy endings.

Endings are the saddest part,

So just give me a happy middle

And a very happy start.”

—Shel Silverstein, Every Thing On It

4. Listen to Your Conscience

“There is a voice inside of you

That whispers all day long,

‘I feel this is right for me,

I know that this is wrong.’

No teacher, preacher, parent, friend

Or wise man can decide

What’s right for you—just listen to

The voice that speaks inside.”

—Shel Silverstein, Falling Up

3. Take Risks Like Alice


She drank from a bottle called DRINK ME

And she grew so tall,

She ate from a plate called TASTE ME

And down she shrank so small.

And so she changed, while other folks

Never tried nothin’ at all.”

—Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

2. Celebrate All Storytellers.

“If you are a dreamer, come in,

If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,

A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…

If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire

For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.

Come in!

Come in!”―Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

1. Don’t Get Discouraged by Negativity

“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, Where the Sidewalk Ends

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