Shel Silverstein should be thought of as more than a children’s poet. He has this ability to cloak real thoughtfulness and weighty issues in a rhyming world filled with rhythm and imagination. The children are entertained and the grown ups are affected.
I have had the pleasure of reading Silverstein as a child and again as a grown-up.
There are only a few things I carried around with me when I moved out of my childhood home (besides the emotional issues, but that’s for entirely different place than here. The place called therapy).
1.My favorite book that I would pour over as a child, The Oxford Unabridged Dictionary.
2. All three of my Shel Silverstein books: Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and The Giving Tree.
That’s all I took.
Since the dictionary is falling apart at it’s binding a bit and all three of Silverstein’s books have lost their dust jackets along the way and now sit on my son’s bookshelf in his childhood home.
I took them down today with the intent to reread Superstitious and I was reminded of how often I used to read and reread these books. As I flipped through, I saw the pride in ownership I had for these dear items. It was not just by my name written carefully on the inside front cover (my son’s name is there now too), but by the marks on the pages from my pencils, my food stains (still a bad habit that I like to eat and read), and yellowed by my messy childhood hands. It’s funny to see how the more yellowing pages are the ones pressed into folded dog ears. I know this is from me, because my son who I am thrilled to say values books as well, is a bookmark and sticky notes kinda reader. Me, on the other hand, I just can’t help myself but to “love” the page directly. So when many would just describe these books as used, I would dispute that the term “adored” is more accurate.
I was never forced to read when I was young. The youngest of four in a working class family, I wasn’t forced to do anything. To be forced to do something meant that someone had time to give you. There was no quality time for me much (therapy, here I come). I had to entertain and occupy myself. These books were/and are still my friends. I would read and re-read the poems. I never had an imaginary friend. I had better. I had these poems that allowed me to escape to imaginary worlds.
I can remember carrying them all over. I ate with them (as noted by the food stains). I played with them, sketching copies of the illustrations on my own pads of paper and trying to write my own versions of the poems. I put them to memory so that when we had to part I would still be able to carry them with me. I slept with them. They kissed me to sleep. Alone in my bed, they made me giggle and sent me off to sweet dreams.
These old friends made me feel less alone, safe, and brave. Just like acting on superstitions makes one feel in control when they are unsure about an outcome, reading these books of poems by Silverstein was my lucky habit that made me feel charmed.
Thankfully, I still have the poetry “[knock on wood)
a lucky AND real rabbit foot (four to be exact).
No matter what age you are, I suggest you purchase A Light in the Attic, new or adored, to have and love. Then you can find "Superstitious" on page 48.
Silverstein, Shel. A Light in the Attic. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers. 1981. Print.