I would venture to say the majority of new readers tend to be drawn to “beautiful” storybooks filled with pages of kaleidoscopic illustrations and picturesque language. Perhaps it is the flashy pictures that cause little minds blossoming with creativity to delve into reading and discover the precious characters that will soon become models by which they view the world. Whatever the case may be, I urge you to recount the many storybooks you read as a child. While these tales may not have been bursting with the latest graphics and hottest shades of turquoise, coral, and hot pink, they were undoubtedly stories that shaped your life. This could not be more true for Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece Meets the Big O.
Originally published in 1981, this book has circulated countless bookshelves across the world. Silverstein’s books have been translated in 20 different languages and sold over 20 million copies. Each of his works have something special to offer its audiences, for there are story lines for children and adults alike. Silverstein’s life was one of both great accomplishments and pain. While he was nominated for numerous awards and praised for his brilliant works beyond the bookstore, he also endured the loss of both his wife and daughter in a seven year span. The wisdom he must have gained through such significant periods of suffering is vividly seen through the pages of his books.
The Missing Piece Meets the Big O is a rather simplistic storybook with many underlying messages that pull at the heartstrings of every society member. I will admit when reading this in my younger years, I had little understanding of the heartfelt words and effortless drawings. But after rereading it recently, this book more than adequately depicts so many sentiments one feels in every stage of life: “The missing piece sat alone… waiting for someone to come along and take it somewhere…” I cannot begin to imagine how many people have felt as though they are that missing piece, waiting for something in life to come along and make everything better — something that would make them complete.
The story not only parallels sentiments but relationships. Above all else, The Missing Piece Meets the Big O is an account of reality — full of brokenness, searching, hoping, praying, changing, and wondering what this thing called life is really all about. We seek to fit in, searching to find the perfect place, only to realize in the process of looking, we’ve been refined into the individuals we were meant to be — individuals more than capable of standing alone. As cliche as it may be, it is ludicrous that we let the world convince us we don’t “fit in” when we were born to stand out.
The parallels between this book and life are endless. Perhaps some have found it dull due to its lack of elaborate illustrations and transparent phraseology; however, far too often we deceive ourselves into believing the lie that elaborate is equivalent to excellent. Then we find ourselves living extravagant lifestyles — full of unhappiness, tired minds, and broken hearts. Far too many times we miss the point. Life is about living fully not only in the times of victory but sorrow and the moments somewhere in between — taking each encounter for what it’s worth and embracing who you are in the process. For until you are content with who you are, you cannot be at peace with the world around you.
The Missing Piece Meets the Big O is a book that those of you who have children will not only want to read them as you’re tucking them into bed as their dreaming of ponies and princesses age the of five but will also be the most meaningful gift you give them upon their graduation from college. For those of you in other stages of life, I suggest you make a pot of coffee, turn on some Bon Iver or Iron and Wine, and read this book. Then read it again. Contemplate on the significance that seeps out of its seemingly plain pages. Take comfort in its uncomplicated explanation of life that we often make far too complicated than necessary.