Where the Sidewalk Ends

Sidewalk Ends

On December 27, I was faced with one of the greatest dilemmas for a bibliophile: picking a favorite book. The choice was to be made for my local book group, and had the further condition of being from the children’s category.

My only consolation for narrowing my 17 choices down to just one was that I promised myself to write about each -here, on this blog. I have therefore forgotten entirely about it since writing posts for King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub and The Adventures of TinTin.

Today I drove past an unusual sign. I’d have taken a picture, but that’s rather irresponsible driving while ferrying small children.

That’s why I did the safe thing and dug up this picture I took nearly three years ago.

Sidewalk

At the sight, I couldn’t help but be drawn back to my childhood and to one of the best books of poetry ever: Where The Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein.

“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.”

 

My mother read to us as children. She did so frequently enough that I remember, though not so much that I could say it was every night or even every month. Besides Ramona Quimby, Age 8All Creatures Great and Small, The Water Babies, and Twig, she read quite a bit of poetry. Her favorites were The Cremation of Sam McGeeBessie’s Boil, many of Ogden Nash’s shorter quips, A Child’s Garden of Verses, and many Shel Silverstein poems.

My favorite thing about the greatest children’s book authors is their ability to convey deep feelings and ideas in succinct, clever passages -passages even a child can understand. I respect their mastery of language. It is a great talent to funnel grand ideas down to fit neatly in the small spaces of a young mind.

I have acquired all of Shel Silverstein’s books of poetry over time, but Where the Sidewalk Ends is my nostalgic favorite for two reasons:

1. My family of origin owned only this book of his and we read it for years and years. It’s like the first dog we owned, and will always hold a special place in my heart for it.

2. Along with the text, we had an audiocassette of Shel Silverstein himself reading/singing/chanting his prose. When I read them to my children today, I hear his laughing voice and his background guitar strumming.

My children can’t hear him, poor things. Thank heavens for YouTube, in this case:

Peanut-Butter Sandwich
Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out
My Beard (my boys’ favorite)
The Generals
Smart
Boa Constrictor
Crocodile’s Toothache
Sick
Jimmy Jet and His TV Set
Captain Hook
Hug O’War

Not all of them were on the recording we had growing up, and fewer than those are currently on YouTube.

The man clearly had a wonderfully twisted sense of humor, and an amusing way of mixing and churning out rhymes. If you have not heard of Shel Silverstein, or only know of a few of his books, check out some of his others.

Runny Babbit is good. Or, The Missing Piece. Many people also like The Giving Tree. I go for his poetry the most: A Light in the AtticFalling Up, and Every Thing On It.

He was an adult, of course, so don’t let any audio program just run wild with everything he’s ever written and performed. That’s your parental advisory right there. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Wikipedia just told me he wrote a few things for Playboy. 😉