Ode to Shel Silverstein


April is National Poetry Month and one of the “30 Ways to Celebrate”  is to revisit a poem that you loved when you were young.  So tonight I pulled out the Shel Silverstein‘s classic Where The Sidewalk Ends.  We have all of Shel Silverstein’s books, even the posthumous Everything On It. I actually have two copies of Where The Sidewalk Ends. My first copy was a gift I received for my birthday from my great-aunt Audrey.


There is so much humor and sense and joy in these poems! If I read the opening line, I can close my eyes and recite many of the shorter ones. Flipping through the pages and familiar illustrations, one of my favorite poems jumped out at me.  Perhaps it influenced me more as a child than I realized.


Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,

Listen to the DON’TS

Listen to the SHOULDN’TS


Listen to the NEVER HAVES

Then listen close to me–

Anything can happen, child,

ANYTHING can be.

In the second of my two copies of Where The Sidewalk Ends, I re-discovered this dedication from my Grandpa Olaf (I have written about his secrets to a long and happy life before) and my step-grandmother Lynda:


My grandpa signed it, but this dedication was clearly written by Lynda.  Both have been gone for a couple of years now.   The book was given to us perhaps 10 years ago; I am certain that I have read the dedication before.  But reading it again was a like a familiar touch on the shoulder.  An unexpected blessing.

So I, for one, will be embracing the expected – and unexpected – richness of the National Month of Poetry.


Two more poems from Where The Sidewalk Ends and one bit of trivia:


I will not play at tug o’ war.

I’d rather play at hug o’ war,

Where everyone hugs

Instead of tugs,

Where everyone giggles

And rolls on the rug,

Where everyone kisses,

And everyone grins,

And everyone cuddles,

And everyone wins.

Hug o' War
On the way to school in Minneapolis, USA


Small as a peanut,

Big as a giant,

We’re all the same size

When we turn off the light.

Rich as a sultan,

Poor as a mite,

We’re all worth the same

When we turn out the light.

Red, black or orange,

Yellow or white,

We all look the same

When we turn out the light.

So maybe the way to make

Everything right

Is for God to just reach out

And turn out the light!

On the way home from school in Yaounde, Cameroon

Here is the Trivia bit:  Shel Silverstein also wrote the lyrics to the Johnny Cash song “A Boy Named Sue”. (It’s true!)

More about  Shel Silverstein’s poetry and illustrations – and activities, too – can be found on www.shelsilverstein.com.


For National Poetry Month, here are more of my posts with poems:

A Mother In A Refugee Camp by Chinua Achebe

April Rain Song by Langston Hughes

Dust of Snow by Robert Frost

14 thoughts on “Ode to Shel Silverstein

  1. Pingback: Where the Sidewalk Ends | Peter J Verdil

Everyone has the right to an opinion and I'd love to hear yours! While comments are very welcome, they will be moderated. My kids read this blog, too!

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