My father likes to send me little Brain Teaser quizzes, and recently we had one about matching the covers of classic books to their titles. I told him I got all of them correct, but I had read only 7 out of 10. I jokingly blamed him for my never having read Where the Sidewalk Ends, because for some reason I never owned that book as a child. A few days later, I received an Amazon package with an apology for the lapse in parenting.
So, finally, I’ve righted this terrible oversight and read Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, and what a delight! I was not a huge Silverstein fan growing up, because I thought (and still think) The Giving Tree is one of the most depressing books every written. (Once I realized it was about parenthood I took it as confirmation that a child-free life was the right decision for me. I say this as a 53-year-old adult who recently shamed her 80-year-old father into buying her a children’s book.)
But Where the Sidewalk Ends is utterly charming and only a heartless curmudgeon could say otherwise. These poems celebrate creativity, as in “Magic”:
Sandra’s seen a leprechaun,
Eddie’s touched a troll,
Laurie danced with witches once,
Charlie found some goblin’s gold.
Donald heard a mermaid sing,
Susy spied an elf,
But all the magic I have known
I’ve had to make myself.
They celebrate independence, as in “Listen to the Mustn’ts”:
Listen to the MUSTN’TS child,
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
The IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me–
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.
The celebrate imagination, as in “Hector the Collector”:
Hector called to all the people,
“Come and share my treasure trunk!”
And all the silly sightless people
Came and looked. . .and called it junk.
Some are slightly subversive and silly, as in “Dreadful,” which repeats the refrain “Someone ate the baby.” I’m not going to quote any more of that poem, but I enjoyed it enough to tag it.
If I were a parent, I’d absolutely buy this book for my child and read it to them until they could read themselves. So, parents of small children, go out and buy it! Buy it now, before your child takes your apples and shade and limbs and wood and leaves you with nothing but a tree stump.