A parent taking a photo of a Darwin Elementary student in front of the school's new Shel Silverstein mural. Credit: Mina Bloom/Block Club Chicago

LOGAN SQUARE — Shel Silverstein was a student at Darwin Elementary in Logan Square many years before becoming one of the most famous children’s authors of all time.

The writer’s Darwin roots were the focus of an unveiling ceremony for a Shel Silverstein commemorative stamp from the U.S. Postal Service. The unveiling was held Friday at the school, 3116 W. Belden Ave.

Postal Service officials joined Darwin students, teachers and administrators in the school’s auditorium to pay tribute to the world-renowned poet and cartoonist and celebrate the launch of the Shel Silverstein stamp.

Silverstein is perhaps most famous for writing and illustrating wildly popular children’s books “The Giving Tree” (1964) and “Where The Sidewalk Ends” (1974). He was also a famous playwright and a musician who wrote several folk songs, including “A Boy Named Sue,” which was made famous by Johnny Cash. He died from a heart attack in 1999.

Silverstein was raised in the Palmer Square area and attended Darwin Elementary. As a boy, he spent many nights drawing cartoons in his apartment on Palmer Street.

Darwin Elementary’s principal, Daniel de los Reyes, speaking during Friday’s ceremony. Credit: Mina Bloom/Block Club Chicago

William Klee, network chief of Chicago Public Schools, credited the Darwin community for shaping Silverstein into a world-famous writer, illustrator and musician. His accomplishments should serve as an inspiration to current students, Klee said during the ceremony.

“His success tells us that any one of you could grow up to make this kind of mark on the world,” Klee said. “Maybe as an author like Shel Silverstein, or as a scientist, a teacher, an artist or a political leader — who knows. An image representing your legacy could one day appear on a stamp like the one we’re celebrating today.”

Darwin Principal Daniel de los Reyes said the messages in Silverstein’s books and other creative works still resonate, especially during the pandemic, which has “exposed [children] to far more experiences that have furthered what Shel Silverstein deemed as ‘the sidewalk.'”

“These experiences have chopped away at the tree that gives relentlessly,” de los Reyes said. “Our babies need us more than ever before.

“Public education and educators have carried a great deal of society’s burden throughout this pandemic. Let us commit ourselves to the erosion of the sidewalk and the planting of more trees. Let us commit to loving our babies and protecting their childhood for as long as we possibly can.”

Darwin Elementary leaders and Postal Service officials unveiling the official Shel Silverstein stamp. Credit: Mina Bloom/Block Club Chicago

Darwin students brought Silverstein’s creativity to life Friday, performing songs like “I’ve Been Eaten By A Boa Constrictor” and reading some of his short poems.

Postal Service officials and Darwin leaders ended the ceremony by revealing the stamp, which features artwork from “The Giving Tree.” It’s a “forever” stamp, meaning its value will remain the same even if rates go up, a Postal Service official said.

 After the ceremony, parents took photos of their kids standing in front of the school’s new Silverstein mural, which was painted by Darwin’s art teacher, Adam Shortlidge, in tribute to the former student.

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Logan Square, Humboldt Park & Avondale reporterrnrnmina@blockclubchi.orgnnLogan Square, Humboldt Park & Avondale reporterrnrnmina@blockclubchi.org Twitter @mina_bloom_