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Traumafessions :: Kinderpal FilmFather on The Giving Tree

March 26th, 2009 by aunt john · 9 Comments

I have a Traumafession that may not be a first, but is surely a rarity: a second-generation Traumafession.

It comes from The Giving Tree, the beloved children’s book by Shel Silverstein (who also wrote Johnny Cash‘s A Boy Named Sue,” strangely enough). While the book is a heart-tugging classic, it’s the back jacket photo of Silverstein that traumatized me as a child, and now my 5-year-old son Dash.

To put it in perspective, this photo is from a brand-new reissue of The Giving Tree. In other words, they’ve been using it for at least three decades.

I mean, is this the best head shot they had of this man? The gritty black and white photo, his thick eyebrows, even thicker beard, and an expression that looks more like he’s going to chase you through the woods than tell you a children’s story.

Even if this was the best photo of Silverstein at the time, that was at least 30 years ago. Horribly scary photo aside, how about a different or updated photo just ’cause? A simple image search on Google easily produces several better options.

So, not only did this photo of Silverstein scare me as a child, it’s disturbed my son enough that he actually asked me to take the book jacket with me after bedtime stories one night — he too thought “the man on the back was scary.”

NOTE: Be sure to check out FilmFather’s excellent blog HERE!

Tags: Traumafessions

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Amanda By NightNo Gravatar // Mar 26, 2009 at 8:49 am

    HA! I’m scare of those photos NOW!

  • 2 Jeff AllardNo Gravatar // Mar 26, 2009 at 9:38 am

    I agree that’s one intimidating picture! Shel Silverstein looks like the meanest hard-ass that ever lived. But besides Silverstein’s Hell-stare, it’s the book itself that freaks me out. A couple of years back I was thinking about buying this to read to my son, having my own dim memories of it from childhood.  But when I reread it, I found it too bleak and despairing to read aloud without getting choked up! It’s a book that should come with its own prescription to Prozac.

  • 3 dariuswhiteplumeNo Gravatar // Mar 26, 2009 at 10:34 am

    I was always scared of that pic, but as an adult I figure Shel would not have had it any other way. And “The Boy Named Sue” is pretty tame for him… Try “The Freaker’s Ball” on for size:

  • 4 RATSAWGODNo Gravatar // Mar 26, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    It IS heavy, but almost something that’s meant more as a testament to the sacrifice parents make for their kids.

  • 5 micksterNo Gravatar // Mar 26, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Every time I find this book when I am out shopping, I sneak up behind my husband and stick the picture in his face. It has to be one of the worst photos ever made. It wasn’t too long ago that my husband and I were talking about how this picture must frighten children.
    I know he wrote several songs for Dr. Hook, but I don’t think he wrote this classic Dr. Hook song.

  • 6 joylessbutcherNo Gravatar // Mar 26, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    When I was a kid I thought he was a pirate … because in kid’s logic “pirates would write the best books for children”
    I hope Sid Haig will play Shel in a movie of his life and Charlie Kaufman  should write and direct….

  • 7 FatherOfTearsNo Gravatar // Mar 27, 2009 at 5:51 am

    Now who has scarier teeth: The pic of Shel or Karen Black at the end of “Trilogy of Terror”?  That must have been a real bone jarring experience for a kid having to see that back cover!

  • 8 VicarOfVHSNo Gravatar // Mar 27, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Wow, I was just thinking about this the other day! I’ve commented on the scariness of that pic to friends many times–as a good companion piece, you should try to find the audio of Shel Silverstein himself performing a musical version of his poem “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out!” Dr. Demento used to play it all the time, back in the day.

    Suffice to say as scary as that picture must be to children, Shel’s voice wasn’t much more calming. 😉

    (All media sites are blocked at my office, or I’d find the audio and post it myself. :S )

  • 9 BQueenNo Gravatar // Mar 27, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    I actually have a picture somewhere of my (maybe 10th?) birthday party where I had just unwrapped Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends” and freaked out over the picture, flipped it around to show everyone which led to everyone letting out a shriek that was immortalized on film.  I should see if I can find it.

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