It might surprise some of you to find out that I read more than just Fantasy and Science Fiction novels. I also read various blogs and of course comics, and occasionally, I will read something random like a collection of poetry. Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends is a classic and should be read and enjoyed by everyone. His poems are quirky and fun and absolutely brilliant. Of course I would recommend this classic to anyone, along with his other titles like A Light in the Attic and Falling Up, and of course the ever wonderful The Giving Tree (which, because of the title, I always confuse with The Giver. They are two totally different books).
I have read this book before, but recently I decided to read it again. Not just for my own sake, but I wanted to share it with my son Jak, who is currently in kindergarten. I was hoping that a few minutes each night of some silly, yet incredible, poems would help to appreciate reading a little bit more. Help him see what one can do with words. Not me, mind you, but someone. I deal in prose only because I realize how hard good poetry is. That’s why I love it, and why I loved sharing it with Jak.
When we first approached Jak about reading this book with him, the first hurdle we had to clear was his very real concern that there was a place where the sidewalk ends. He had never thought about that before. He had assumed in his little 6-year-old brain that the sidewalk must just go on forever. The idea that there might be a place where the sidewalk simply just ended made him a little nervous. This helped me realize two very important things. Number one, we need to get Jak, and probably all of our kids, out more, and show them places where there is no sidewalk. Number two, it is really important to challenge his status quo, get him thinking a little more outside the box.
Once I assured him that it was ok that the sidewalk ended somewhere, and he bought in, we began reading. At first he wasn’t sure what to think, but as I sat on the edge of his bed reading poem after poem, and he began to laugh out loud at some of them, the magic started happening. He began to see how words could be fun and whimsical and somehow magical. Maybe that sounds like I am overdoing it a little, but it really felt that way. He began to understand how the rhythms of the poems added to the playfulness of the little stories, or the silliness. I mean, I am not saying that he went out and started writing poetry, or that he analyzed it on that kind of a level, but he was having fun. Maybe he didn’t at all realize why, but he was having fun, and he knew it came from the book.
Over the next few days, he was requesting that I read to him from that book, until we finished it.The important thing here, was that he was requesting that I read to him. That sounds selfish on my part, so I should explain. Jak loves his mom. He likes me most days, and tolerates me usually, but he loves his mom. He will say “I love you” to one person in this while world, and that is his mom. The most I get is an “OK,” if I say it to him first. If he had his choice, he and his mom would be attached somehow. Sometimes, the way he crawls and climbs on her, it seems like he is trying to make them attached. With this book, however, he did not want mom to read it to him. He wanted me, and only me. It was awesome.
The book is a few hundred pages long, filled with poems on each page, some a couple of pages long, others a couple of lines. It is also filled with Silverstein’s own illustrations, which add to the fun feel of this book. It is a classic that should be read to every child. Every child should be exposed to it, and every adult should read it to a child to be reminded of what being a child is like. I think there is a 30th anniversary and 40th anniversary edition of the book, each containing a few more poems. I think ours was the 40th anniversary. It was whatever we found at the library when we picked it up (yes, libraries are awesome, and everyone should use them. It’s free books, which is a no brainer).
The best recommendation for this book came from Jak himself. Shortly after we finished the book, he was a little disappointed that it was done. He wanted it to keep going. So, the next day, he and his mom picked up Falling Up from the library and brought it home. He was now hooked. This was a great experience for him and for me, and that is what reading should be.
What do you think? Have you read Where the Sidewalk Ends before? What did you think? What are some of your favorite books from your childhood? Let us know in the comments below, or you can email your feedback to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Do you have a book you think I should feature in 50 Good Books? Let me know. It could be my next read.
All images are copyright their respective owners.