The cover of Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book. Courtesy Simon & Schuster
15 June 2017 | | Atlas Obscura
In the August 1961 issue of Playboy, Hugh Hefner, likely recognizing that his adult publication was missing out on a lucrative and untapped market, commissioned some material just for the kids. Six pages after a centerfold spread of Playmate Karen Thompson, Playboy Magazine printed its inaugural children’s work—Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book.
Shortly thereafter, Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book was published. Featuring much of the material from Playboy, it was the first book written by prolific author, musician, playwright and songwriter Shel Silverstein, then Playboy’s resident cartoonist. Over the past 55 years, it has become a literary cult classic, unknown by most, but fiercely adored by ardent fans.
Silverstein’s introductory work purports to be an educational tool, bearing the tagline, “A Primer For Tender Young Minds.” But upon the most cursory of inspections, it becomes clear that Uncle Shelby is not to be trusted with young minds, tender or otherwise.
“D” is for Daddy: “Daddy needs a haircut. Poor Daddy. Daddy has no money for a haircut.” Shel Silverstein/Simon & Schuster