The Poetry of Shel Silverstein
From Miss Amanda at Main
There is something to be said about a poet – a children’s poet, nonetheless – whose work has lasted beyond his lifetime and still continues to inspire children, parents, and teachers. I have distinct memories of reading Where the Sidewalk Ends as a kid and listing my favorite book as The Giving Tree. Upon working with kids at the library, I rediscovered Shel Silverstein, and like a long lost friend, greeted his work with new enthusiasm and fond remembrance.
Silverstein’s newest book, Every Thing On It, came out late last year. The second posthumous publication since the author’s death in 1999, Every Thing On It doesn’t deviate in any way from the sideways humor and gentle poignancy that readers have come to expect from Silverstein’s work. In fact, because of the nature and timing of its publication, this book in particular is rather touching and just a little bit sad. The first poem in the book, “Years From Now”, is the perfect opener to this collection.
Although I cannot see your face
As you flip these poems awhile,
Somewhere from some far-off place
I hear you laughing – and I smile.
(Every Thing On It by Shel Silverstein, p. 9)
The book’s title poem, “Every Thing On It”, is the second poem; classic Silverstein humor is resplendent in the accompanying illustration of a young man who asked for a hot dog “with everything on it” and receives a hot dog topped with a parrot, a goldfish, a fiddle, and other various objects.
One of my favorite Silverstein poems, “Spaghetti”, found in Where the Sidewalk Ends, has a great follow-up poem in this collection. ”Twenty-Eight Uses for Spaghetti” imagines all the ways spaghetti can be used in rather unconventional methods (a jump rope? a tennis net? reindeer reins?). But Silverstein reminds readers at the end that spaghetti is, first and foremost, something you can eat.
And of course, reading this book will mean reading Silverstein’s other works and enjoying the wide variety of issues he tackles within them. I encourage parents to read these poems to and with their children and talk about them. It doesn’t matter if they’re silly or serious, happy or sad. What does matter is sharing these great books and gaining a respect, if not love, for poetry.
Listen to Shel Silverstein read (sing?) his poem “Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too”
Resources on the Internet
- Shel Silverstein’s website (lots of great resources and activities!)
- A list of Shel’s books from publisher HarperCollins
- Shel Silverstein/Poetry Month printable kit (PDF)
- Tons of resources provided by Reading Rockets (including more animated poems!)
- Find Shel Silverstein’s works in our catalog