Every Thing On It by Shel Silverstein

Cindy: I was excited and a little nervous when I heard there was to be a new Shel Silverstein collection. Post-humous publications often disappoint, but this one is successful. Every Thing On It (Harper 2011) has over 130 poems with his trademark line drawings, selected by his family from his archives and published her for the first time. The collection opens with this poem:

YEARS FROM NOW

Although I cannot see your face
As you flip these poems awhile,
Somewhere from some far-off place
I hear you laughing–and I smile.

A fitting opening for the poet who died in 1999.

I bought three copies of this collection for each of my middle school libraries back in September and they were snapped up immediately and have been in circ constantly. The original, now classic collections, A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends brought a lot of reluctant poetry readers into the 811 shelves and for that I am ever thankful to Shel. Fans of Silverstein’s trademark humor will be happy with the offerings here, including a particularly gruesome poem about Elvina who fell in the hamburger grinder. I am welcoming my teenage daughters home from college for the holidays  with a copy of “The Toilet Troll” taped to the underside of their bathroom’s toilet lid…proving that I am one such fan. Critics of his poetry…that it teaches children to misbehave…will find more fodder here for their censorship attacks. Me? I’m in solidarity with the poem, “THE LOVETOBUTCANTS.” There are a lot of chores that I would love to claim this disease prevents me from completing! Don’t miss visiting the Shel Silverstein official website filled with delightful animations of his art and a wealth of resources for teachers and librarians.

Lynn: Everything kids loved about Silverstein’s previous books is here in this one.  He always had the location of children’s funny bones exactly pinpointed and reached it with unerring skill.  That is still the case with this collection.  The poems are goofy, sweet and silly and each one made us smile.  The focus group hadn’t yet encountered Silverstein.  I know!  What have I been doing?  But we sat yesterday and read a lot of these together and they are instant fans.  We loved The Shot and Italian Food and, of course, Toilet Troll and…well, I could end up just listing them all.  Take our word for it – buy this for your collections now.  And, a word of advice, read it fast because the minute the kids see it, it will be checked on from then on!  I’m going to close with this lovely poem from the book:

WHEN I AM GONE

When I am gone what will you do?

Who will write and draw for you?

Someone smarter – someone new?

Someone better – maybe YOU!

For more wonderful Nonfiction Monday books, go to Books Together.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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