A spider lives inside my head
Who weaves a strange and wondrous web
Of silken threads and silver strings
To catch all sorts of flying things,
Like crumbs of thoughts and bits of smiles
And specks of dried-up tears,
And dust of dreams that catch and cling
For years and years and years….
~Shel Silverstein (Every Thing On It, 190)
Poems and Drawings by Shel Silverstein
Harper (HarperCollins), 2011.
Hardcover, 195 pages.
Dedication reads: “For you”
“This posthumous collection of Silverstein’s poems and illustrations is not only familiar in design, but chockfull of the whimsical humor, eccentric characters, childhood fantasies, and iconoclastic glee that his many fans adore. Like the boy who orders a hot dog ‘with everything on it’ (‘…it came with a parrot,/ A bee in a bonnet,/ A wristwatch, a wrench, and a rake’), there are plenty of surprises in store for readers. Although a few poems feel a tad fragmentary, overall the volume includes some of Silverstein’s strongest work, brilliantly capturing his versatility and topsy-turvy viewpoint. The poems take expectedly unexpected twists (Walenda the witch rides a vacuum cleaner); a few are gross (‘Let’s just say/ I took a dare,’ reads ‘Mistake,’ as Silverstein shows a snake trailing out of a boy’s pair of shorts, its tail still entering through his mouth), but many more display Silverstein’s clever wordplay, appreciation of everyday events, and understated wisdom. ‘There are no happy endings./ Endings are the saddest part,/ So just give me a happy middle/ And a very happy start.’ The silly-for-the-sake-of-silly verses are nicely balanced with sweetly contemplative offerings, including a poignant final poem that offers an invitation to readers: ‘When I am gone what will you do?/ Who will write and draw for you?/ Someone smarter — someone new?/ Someone better — maybe YOU!’ All ages. (Sept.)” Publishers Weekly
Everything On It was a timely read for Banned Books Week 2011 last week. This posthumous publication contains all we have come to know and love in Shel Silverstein’s Poems and Drawings for children–it’s bound to be challenged/banned very soon. I haven’t much more to say, Publishers Weekly says it so nicely, but I did notice that there are some great poems in Everything On It for adults as well as children, more than usual. (That isn’t to imply that Silverstein’s work is only ever meant for children, it’s just really meant for children.) “Growing Down” (76-9) is about “old Mr. Brown, the crabbiest man in our whole darn town,” whom the children come to call “Grow-Up Brown.” He thinks the children should grow up, the children think he should grow down. Grow-Up Brown comes to agree, “It’s much more fun, this growin’ down.” “The Dollhouse” (151) is another one.
You can’t crawl back in the dollhouse–
You’ve gotten too big to get in.
You’ve got to live here
Like the rest of us do.
You’ve got to walk roads
That are winding and new.
But oh, I wish I could
Crawl back with you,
Into the dollhouse again.
Some parents will especially appreciate “MER-MAID” (171).
There are many mindless and/or mindful ways to think about Silverstein poems and drawings. I love how complicated and uncomplicated a poem of his finds itself.
A lizard in a blizzard
Got a snowflake in his gizzard
And nothing else much happened, I’m afraid,
but lizard rhymed with blizzard
And blizzard rhymed with gizzard
And that, my dear, is why most poems are made.
Every Thing On It is another collection to own, and to share, and to read–with the young and the old. It would be wonderful to see some of our young and old take up the missive in “WRITESINGTELLDRAW” and “When I am Gone.” We need more Shel Silverstein Poems and Drawings in the world.
After the snowmelt and after the rain,
Out of the ground a hand came
And drew me a picture
And wrote me a poem
And touched my face gently
And pointed me home.