100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

I Asked Shel Silverstein About the Meaning of Life . . .

*Knock* *Knock* *Knock*

Hello? Shel?

(Door swings open)

Shel Brood

Hey, Shel. Sorry to bother you. I know you’re brooding right now, but I was hoping you could answer a question for me.

Shel Brood

Shel? If you come on the deck and listen to my question, I promise I won’t make you sit in a chair. Manspread to you heart’s delight! What do you say?

Shel Deck

Thanks, Shel. Okay, the question is pretty deep, but I know you are a deep thinker.

Shel Skeptical

What? Oh, you’re going to pretend like you aren’t? Don’t pull this false modesty stuff on me. I’ve read The Missing Piece.

So here’s my question . . . what is the meaning of life?

Shel Skeptical 2

What?! Shel! I’m serious. I thought you might know. Do you know?

Shel Skeptical 2

Do you?

Shel Skeptical 2

Silent treatment, eh? How about I shout out a few possibilities and you put on a ridiculous fur coat if I’m right?


Shel Skeptical


Shel Skeptical


Shel Skeptical


Shel Smile

Creativity? That’s it?

Look at me in a way that makes me feel special if that’s it.

Shel Listen

Huh. I would have guessed “love”. You sure it isn’t that?

Shel Brood

Okay, I get the message. Thank you, Shel.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. THE only photo above that has any resemblance to Shel is the one holding his hands as if praying.
    He was a kind, gentle, giving soul.

  2. 25 years ago this weekend we lost two young boys, their fathers, and the family dog in a boating accident during our annual fishing derby. Shel, a fellow islander, responded to the tragedy by quietly and without any fanfare presenting our school with a 10′ hand carved tree, the boys’ names making up the two main branches.
    The tree still holds a place of honor in our school; as do the boys and, of course, Shel Silverstein.