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Every Thing on It

Review

Every Thing on It

poems and drawings by Shel Silverstein

Many curmudgeonly types (myself perhaps included) bemoan the fact that "kids today" aren't required to memorize and recite poetry in school. What they (okay, we) tend to forget is that there is one poet whose works children gladly, almost automatically, memorize and recite, even without the pressures of a school assignment.

That writer, of course, is Shel Silverstein. Who doesn't remember "A Boy Named Sue," "Where the Sidewalk Ends" or "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout"? Much like the powerful cadences and inventive wordplay of Dr. Seuss does for younger kids, Silverstein's bouncy rhythms and quirky, often irreverent humor hit middle graders' sweet spots.

Silverstein, of course, passed away in 1999, but now, after more than a decade, lucky readers are being treated to EVERY THING ON IT, a new, satisfyingly silly collection of his trademark rhymes. The title poem is perfectly chosen, a classic Silverstein ditty that will make long-time readers feel right at home and draw in new ones as well: "I asked for a hot dog / With everything on it / And that was my big mistake," writes the narrator, who finds himself with, among other things, "A flag, and a fiddle, / A frog and a front porch swing."

As in Silverstein's other classic collections such as A LIGHT IN THE ATTIC and WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS (whose trim size and design EVERY THING ON IT resembles), an important component of its design and success is the interplay of his poems with his humorous line drawings. Silverstein was a cartoonist as well as a poet, so it's no surprise that some of his poems actually depend on their accompanying drawings for their punch line. In "My Hat," for example, the speaker asks, "Why is it that when I put on my hat, / Everyone just disappears?" Readers will immediately see the reason why: the wide-eyed narrator's hat resembles a fanged head devouring her innocent head. In "Cinderella," a skeptical Prince Charming surveys a six-foot-long glass slipper and thinks to himself, "I don't think / I'll try to find her."

EVERYTHING ON IT is far from a perfect collection of verse. At times, the verses don't scan perfectly smoothly; at others, Silverstein relies on jokes that he has used multiple times in other volumes. That being said, this posthumous work is sure to satisfy readers who love his irreverent, sometimes gross, humor as well as those who embrace his sweeter side (fans of THE GIVING TREE, for example).

The volume's editors chose two particularly poignant short verses to bookend the book, both of which underscore Silverstein's endearing earnestness and remind readers just how much it --- not to mention he --- is missed.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on September 20, 2011

Every Thing on It
poems and drawings by Shel Silverstein

  • Publication Date: September 20, 2011
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0061998168
  • ISBN-13: 9780061998164