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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Every Thing On It, poems and drawings by Shel Silverstein. Harper, 2011. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"Liar, liar, pants are on fire,
Your nose is as long as a telephone wire,"
That's what they told me when I was a tot,
But now I am older,
My nose ain't no longer,
My pants ain't no hotter...
And I still lie a lot."

My first copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends has an elastic band tied around it to keep it together. It's cover is brown, with no observable letters on the spine, or images on the front. It has been loved, almost to its death. But, I persevere and take it with me whenever I do poetry workshops or do 'poetry weeks' in schools. It lets kids know how important it is to me, has been to my kids at home, and was to the kids in my classrooms since I discovered it in 1982. It was first published in 1974...all those years without it!

That discovery was sweet! I had promised a second grade class that we would be reading a lot together and that every day I would read to picture book (at least), a chapter from a novel (maybe more) and a few poems (always ended up being about ten). Shel Silverstein was our first poet. The kids got so they could call out page numbers and they would hear their favorites on a daily basis. I can still recite 'The Crocodile's Toothache' word for word, which grabs the attention of any child listening.

From spaghetti ' up to my elbow - up to my face' to the dentist who met a crocodile with a tooth ache, they just kept calling out names and pages...we almost wore that book out. And when I was finished reading to them, the kids borrowed the book for their silent reading time, which often was anything but silent as great guffaws erupted during that reading. It is a lovely memory.

We went on to share The Light in the Attic and Falling Up with the same attention and enjoyment. How lucky we are to welcome a brand new book by this funny, funny man, almost twelve years after his untimely death. The poems included in this new book were selected by family members from his archives. He had so much to share with us!

So today, on its publication date, I want to tell you a bit about 'Every Thing On It'. Well, it's a perfect match to the other three and I am thrilled to add it to my collection. It has lost none the verve and hilarity that Shel Silverstein brought to earlier works. I have only read through it one time; but I do have favorites already. And, I know someone is going to get a copy for Christmas...or, a few someones.

While many of the poems are instilled with the humor and irony that are such an important part of his writing, there are also thoughtful, gentle poems that evoke a sense of loss and sadness:


She had blue skin,
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through,
Then passed right by -
And never knew."

I have many post-its marking the pages that I want to read again. I will surely be sharing it wherever I am this fall and winter. I will be reading parts to my kids - over the phone because they live so far away; but, it will bring back wonderful 'other' times when we shared his work and learned a love of poetry.

I want this prolific and remarkable writer to have the final word:

"When I am Gone

When I am gone what will you do?
Who will write and draw for you?
Someone smarter - someone new?
Someone better - maybe YOU!"

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