Friday Favorites: Shel Silverstein

Friday, August 27, 2010


Rockabye baby, in the treetop.
Don't you know a treetop
Is no safe place to rock?
And who put you up there,

And your cradle too?

Baby, I think someone down here's

Got it in for you.

Whimsical and strange, Silverstein's poetry has fascinated me since I was a kid. Most of the poems are quirky and funny, like the above, but there are others that can wrench your heart.
Silverstein had a bit of Salinger in him. He was odd and a bit reclusive, but brilliant in his own way. When I was in eighth grade I performed some of his poems for a speech competition. The most difficult part was narrowing it down to only two poems.

The Missing Piece is another of Silverstein's books, but it's not a poetry collection. The story is about a little circle creature on a mission to find his missing piece. He tries many different shapes, but none of them fit. Finally he finds the perfect piece, it fits into the empty pie sliver in the circle. Hurray, now he is complete! But wait, it's a Silverstein story, so that's not really the ending. Instead, the circle now realizes that with his perfect piece he can no longer talk. It doesn't make his life perfect at all. He lets go of the piece and rolls on, happy again.

It's Silverstein's ability to bring elements of real life into children's stories that made me love his work. That's a tricky thing to do and he always managed to do it without making it too dark.

Here's one of my favorites...

The Little Boy and The Old Man
Said the little boy, "Sometimes I drop my spoon."
Said the little old man, "I do that too."
The little boy whispered, "I wet my pants."
"I do that too," laughed the little old man.
Said the little boy, "I often cry." The old man nodded, "So do I."
"But worst of all," said the boy, "it seems

Grown-ups don't pay attention to me." And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand. "I know what you mean," said the little old man.


Teacher/Learner said...

Nice choices! I love reading Silverstein's poems to my students. The Giving Tree is another favourite of mine that teaches lessons about love, wants & needs, and the environment. Thanks for sharing :o)

Tanu said...

Shel Silverstein is one of my favorite...He is awesome!!!

B said...

I love Shel Silverstein! My niece turned 5 this year and we went through "Where the Sidewalk Ends" in a couple of days. Her favorite, the one that she insist I read over and over again, is "The Googies are Coming:"

The googies are coming, the old people say,
to buy little children and take them away.
Fifty cents for fat ones,
twenty cents for lean ones,
Fifteen cents for dirty ones,
Thirty cents for clean ones
A nickel for the mean ones

The googies are coming, and maybe tonight,
to buy little children and lock them up tight.
eigthy cents for husky ones,
quarter for the weak ones,
penny each for noisy ones,
a dollar for the meek ones.

Forty cents for happy ones,
Eleven cents for sad ones.
And kiddies, when they come to buy,
It won't do any good to cry.
But - just between you and I-
They never buy the bad ones!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Brenna - That's a great one. I can definitely see why kids would love it too.

B said...

I know my niece loves it! I just wanted to tell you I accidentally deleted your comment rather than publish it because my stupid iPhone is so small. So, if you don't see it I promise it wasn't because I didn't like it :) Have a good weekend!

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I heart Shel Silverstein -- what wonderfully fabulous childhood memories! I remember reading and re-reading these!

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, that last poem really touched me! <3