Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends
Book review by Ramona Davis
This is the place where the sidewalk ends...
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.
Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.
Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.
To say that Shel Silverstein was a master of words, the English language, and teaching a lesson through almost every poem he wrote, would be an understatement; every poem in Where the Sidewalk Ends is a testament to that. His poetry is not only fun, imaginative, and Doctor Seuss-like, it is meaningful, timeless, even profound in how deeply his verse speaks to a wide variety of audiences.
I have used 'Tree House' in a workshop for adult victims of domestic violence. There, participants were encouraged to describe their ideal tree house, or safe place, their "...free house...secret you and me house..." I have also used 'One Inch Tall' in workshops to teach elementary school youth about prejudice, and encourage them to express how they would feel being one inch tall.
Looking back, I even remember being swallowed by a 'Boa Constrictor' when I was in kindergarten, as my whole class sang a version of this poem to our parents one cool September evening at a Back to School night event.
Mr. Silverstein's poems are whimsical and overflowing with excitement as his words invite us to follow the road to 'where the sidewalk ends' and see the world in delightful ways. His illustrations are as quirky and silly as his poems, and I sometimes catch myself flipping through the pages of his books (I own Sidewalk, A Light In the Attic, Falling Up, and Runny Babbit) just looking at his artwork. He was truly a phenomenal man.
Where the Sidewalk Ends is as inspiring a read, as the author himself is wise in his presentation of life's lessons. The book is seemingly filled with nonsense poems that all at once grab your heartstrings and hold on tight with universal appeal. It is, in itself, its own 'Forgotten Language':
Once I spoke the language of the flowers,
Once I understood each word the caterpillar said,
Once I smiled in secret at the gossip of the starlings,
And shared a conversation with the housefly in my bed.
Once I heard and answered all the questions of the crickets,
And joined the crying of each falling dying flake of snow,
Once I spoke the language of the flowers....
How did it go?
How did it go?
...and one I highly recommend.
Where the Sidewalk Ends was one of the bestselling children's books of the 20th century.
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