Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shell Silverstein

sidewalk endsPublished in 1974, this longtime favorite has fallen in popularity as it’s aged. That’s so extremely unfortunate. I’m here to put it in front of a new generation of kids as well as remind parents, teachers, and homeschoolers who may have loved it long ago and forgotten all about it.

I’ve never been a fan of poetry, but some of these really tickled my funny bone when I was a child. I still have a few of them memorized. Some of you may remember…

I cannot go to school today,
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps…

Ring a bell? After the whole ridiculous rhyming retinue of ailments, Peggy Ann learns…well, if you haven’t read Sick, I’m not going to tell you. But her reaction is funny, and so, so what a kid would do. That’s the beauty of these quirky poems. They’re exactly what a kid would say and think and laugh about. Even forty years later, they’re still extremely kid-relatable. Here are a few more of my favorites:

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout
Would not take the garbage out!

That’s the first line and the title of this kid-pleasing tale of laziness and its too-silly cost. I may have been known to quote parts of it to my children when the “prune pits, peach pits, orange peel…” and “gloppy bits of cold oatmeal” begin to pile up in our kitchen due to their negligence.

Another one we like to quote (in the car, because this always happens, though we’ve never waited weeks and then months) is Traffic Light:

The traffic light simply would not turn green
So the people stopped to wait
As the traffic rolled and the wind blew cold
And the hour grew dark and late.

Most of you know I homeschool some low readers. Well, it just so happens that one of the exercises recommended by reading experts to improve fluency is called “performance reading”. Basically, a child reads a selected text out loud over and over until they can read it with ease and expression. Practice makes perfect, even in reading. Shell Silverstein’s silly poems are THE PERFECT subject matter. Each Monday, my youngest has to pick a new poem, learn it, and perform it for me on Friday. (Sometimes it takes two weeks.) He loves it. First, the slow work of slogging through new text. Then the smiles as he pieces together the  humor. Next is usually an examination of the illustration, which always suits the poem so perfectly, because it was drawn by Mr. Silverstein himself. And finally, a proud, grinning performance as my son reads the text just as well as anyone could and anticipates the moment I share the punchline. It’s always fun. And it’s EDUCATIONAL! (Shhh…don’t tell him that.)

So would I recommend this dusty old book of poetry? You bet I would!!

4 thoughts on “Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shell Silverstein

  1. I haven’t seen this book in years. I love the assignment you are giving your son — you’re a great teacher. My daughter adored the poems and quirky humor as a child and she still has a copy. Can’t believe it was written for your generation. I won’t tell you what I was doing in 1974.

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