Poet, songwriter, recording artist and cartoonist Shel Silverstein died of a heart attack on May 9. He was 66.

Born and raised in Chicago, Silverstein began his career as a writer and cartoonist for Playboy in the early 1950s. Prior to that, he was a cartoonist for the Pacific Stars and Stripes while in the Army in Japan and Korea.

Silverstein was the author of four bestselling children's books: The Giving Tree (1964), Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974), A Light in the Attic (1981) and Falling Up (1996), all published by HarperCollins. Together they have sold over 18 million copies in hardcover and have been translated into 20 languages.

Although his first books were published for adults, at the suggestion of author/illustrator Tomi Ungerer, Silverstein wrote and illustrated his first book for young readers, Uncle Shelby's Story of Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back, which HarperCollins published in 1963.

Silverstein's longtime editor, Robert Warren, editorial director of HarperCollins's Children's Books, said, "He had a genius that transcended age and gender, and his work probably touched the lives of more people than any writer in the second half of the 20th century." According to Warren, Silverstein was working on a number of manuscripts at the time of his death.

Among his most famous songs was "A Boy Named Sue," which became a hit record for Johnny Cash. His own recordings include Dirty Feet (1968), Shel Silverstein: Songs and Stories (1978) and the 1984 Grammy Award-winning p try collection Where the Sidewalk Ends. He also composed music and soundtracks for motion pictures and wrote screenplays.

Silverstein's numerous awards include a New York Times Notable Book designation in 1974 for Where the Sidewalk Ends; an IRA/Children's Choice award in 1982 for The Missing Piece Meets the Big O; and the George C. Stone and William Allen White awards in 1984 for A Light in the Attic.

See A Tribute to Shel Silverstein