Poetry Friday: A Shel Silverstein 2-in-1 Special

We usually have a Featured Poet for Poetry Friday – but this time around, we thought that it would be great to do a 2-in-1 review of the celebrated and much-loved Shel Silverstein – as we explore his very first poetry collection entitled Don’t Bump the Glump! and other Fantasies initially released in 1964, same year that his most famous picture book The Giving Tree was published – as well as his most recent book Everything On It, released on 2011. Poetry Friday is hosted this week by the lovely Tara at A Teaching Life.

In contrast to other Shel Silverstein’s poetry collections which are published in black and white – Don’t Bump the Glump! as you can see, is in full color! Such a treat indeed. I am also discovering that quite a number of poetry books for children include bestiaries of strangely-surreal creatures (Scranimals by Jack Prelutsky and Peter Sis comes to mind and Ellen Stern’s I Saw a Bullfrog).

I was simply delighted by this book. For some reason, Silverstein always casts a magical spell on me – the word play is reminiscent of Dr. Seuss or Edward Lear. Yet while the verse celebrates the nonsensical, it never fails to move the reader’s sensibilities. In this lovely full-colored book, the reader gets introduced to this cornucopia of creepy (often humongous or teeny-tiny), oddly-shaped creatures such as the Underslung Zath (would you be able to tell him that it’s time for his bath?) or the Zrbangdraldnk (how to pronounce indeed) who has just arrived in the scene.

And there is the Glub-Toothed Sline who is intent on coming to your house to dine (on what, please don’t ask me that) -

or Arnold the Long-Necked Preposterous who is out looking for a mate:

My ten year old daughter and I just couldn’t stop laughing at the illustrations and the verse and looking at how all these creatures defy natural proportions and the colors – simply glorious! I must admit though that one of my favorites is The Terrible (twenty-foot) Feezus and let’s hope that he doesn’t see us!

As I was looking for resources for this book, I found this downloadable Glump Activity Kit (a pdf link) from Shel Silverstein’s website which includes awesome stuff such as reproducible name tags for kids, word finder/ word search activities and so much more! To say that this would encourage students to dream up their own glumps, zantz, furless flatchims, and squishy squashy staggitalls – would be an understatement – very powerful book for educators and cool parents who are into misshapen – creatively-wrought-out creatures.

This book which has been published 12 years after Silverstein’s death in 1999 at age 68,  has caused quite a bit of excitement in the industry since it includes 145 poems and drawings that have never been seen before (click here to be taken to npr.org’s review of the book which also includes an audio link for some of the poems in the book). It is moving and exciting at the same time to read the musings of Silverstein as could be seen in the first poem: Years From Now (p. 9):

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.

I never fail to be moved by Shel’s simple, honest-to-goodness wisdom that clearly shows blacks and whites while celebrating the grays. While I loved his Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic - I have to say that this one is my favorite. I was immediately taken by Spider (p. 190):

A spider lives inside my head
Who weaves a strange and wondrous web
Of silken threads and silver strings
To catch all sorts of flying things,
Like crumbs of thoughts and bits of smiles
And specks of dried-up tears,
And dust of dreams that catch and cling
For years and years and years…

Made me sigh over and over again. I also felt that a few of the poems sounded whimsical and very poignant. One of my personal favorites is The Stairway (pp. 124-125):

I climbed the stairway to the sun
To fill my eyes with burning gold.
But oh the sky was dank and dark,
And there the air was damp and cold,
And down below the earth shone bright.
I sat and stared in wonder. Then,
I crawled back down – I don’t think I
Will climb those stairs again.

Makes you think, really. Now here is my last offering from Shel Silverstein for Poetry Friday. I thought that the song from the play (turned movie) Rent entitled Seasons of Love would be the perfect backdrop for Shel Silverstein’s The Clock Man (pp. 94-95):

“How much will you pay for an extra day?”
The clock man asked the child.
“Not one penny,” the answer came,
“For my days are as many as smiles.”
 
“How much will you pay for an extra day?”
He asked when the child was grown.
“Maybe a dollar or maybe less,
For I’ve plenty of days of my own.”
 
“How much will you pay for an extra day?”
He asked when the time came to die.
“All of the pearls in all of the seas,
And all of the stars in the sky.”

Don’t Bump the Glump! and Other Fantasies by Shel Silverstein. Harper Collins Publishers, 1964, renewed 1992. Book borrowed from the NIE Library. Book photos taken by me.

Every Thing On It. Poems and Drawings by Shel Silverstein. Harper, an Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, 2011. Book borrowed from the Community Library. Book photos taken by me.

PictureBook Challenge Update: 6/7 of 120

25 Comments on Poetry Friday: A Shel Silverstein 2-in-1 Special

  1. Shel Silverstein made such an impression on me growing up, and I’ve been waiting and waiting for my girls to be old enough to enjoy his poetry. (We already have The Giving Tree, which is one of my favorite “regular” books of his). My mother-in-law got Everything On It for my 7-year-old over the holidays, and the other night at bedtime I guess I had forgotten the title because my daughter was repeatedly yelling “Where’s everything on it?” and I was so confused. But my confusion turned to delight when I realized that she was talking about the book. We are still making our way through, but she is really enjoying the poems. I’m sure she’ll grow into them more over the next few years, but it warms my heart to see her so excited about Shel Silverstein. You just have to love him, don’t you think? Thanks for this great glimpse into his first and last books!

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    • Hi Kerry, I remember being introduced to Shel Silverstein by a young student of mine when I was teaching during my first year. He was an upstart 17 year old young man, an Engineering undergraduate student and he would often quote Shel Silverstein to me, I was smitten (with Silverstein, that is)! :)

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  2. I haven’t ever heard of Don’t Bump the Glump; what a wonderful find for all of us. Thank you for this detailed sharing of the poet’s work, earliest & latest! I loved ‘I climbed the stairway to the sun’ would be interesting to share with children to see what they thought of it, and others, too!

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    • Hi Linda, Stairway to the Sun was bittersweet for me. Yeah, it would be interesting to hear the kids’ take on it. :) It was truly a treat to end our Poetry-filled yuletide cheer theme with Shel Silverstein.

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  3. I think I’ve read the book “Where the sidewalk ends” about 10 times. haha

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  4. What a terrific post, Myra! I love how you’ve tied these two collections together. The new book is on my list but I don’t yet have, so I appreciate the peek inside. Such a legacy. (Oh, and about the strange beasties, I also love Julie Larios’s account of mythical ones, IMAGINARY MENAGERIE – A BOOK OF CURIOUS CREATURES, with those gorgeous illustrations by Julie Paschkis.)

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    • Hi Robyn, many thanks for that wonderful recommendation. I would definitely look that up! I was meaning to create a post on fantastical creatures and poetry but we have got to move on to our next bimonthly theme, it is January after all, and we’ve over-extended our poetry theme – all for the love of verse.

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  5. I’m so interested in your reaction to EVERY THING ON IT. I sort of had the opposite experience: I lovelovelove the earlier works (ATTIC, SIDEWALK) but wasn’t so enamored of this one. There are poems I marked, but as a whole, I was disappointed ?? I was chalking it up to a stage of life issue. Who knows? Thanks for your thoughts.

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    • Hi Ire, between Attic and Sidewalk, I loved the latter more, and was a little lukewarm about the former.

      Every Thing On It has a very different sense/vibe to it, compared to the other two books – I found it more pensive, quietly-questioning, and less flippant and light-hearted. I do believe that poems speak to us at different stages in our lives – so you’re probably right. Perhaps if you and I read it at different phases in our lives, we’d have varying reactions to it. :)

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    • I’m glad that you were brave enough to post this reaction because I didn’t want to be the only one.

      I absolutely adored Shel Silverstein’s books of poetry as a kid — they were at the center of our family’s bookshelf for as long as I can remember. My affinity grew as I did; when I moved out I bought my own copies and I still pick them up every few months and read a dozen or so poems as a reminder of my own goals and as a motivator to never stop writing.

      Now, that said, I just don’t think there is much comparison between ‘ALITA’ and ‘WTSE’ vs. the later releases. Falling Up, for example, was a bit of a bust for me; there are moments of brilliance to be sure, but overall I felt that I was being fed many poems that had been cut from earlier works or that were rushed/unfinished. I would have preferred a book with a quarter as many poems that reflected the quality (in all its meanings) that I had come to expect from Mr. Silverstein.

      I will of course still buy these additional releases. I’m sure that I will enjoy them and that they will make me a better writer for reading them. Such is his magic.

      -Ed

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      • Hi Ed, one of my favorite things about Shel Silverstein is that he makes very simple things sound so complex at the same time that he is able to pin down and untangle life’s complexities with a few simple words that make the most sense. I didn’t even mention Falling Up as it didn’t leave that much impression on me and my daughter as we were reading it – although we still enjoyed it and finished it in a few days’ time. There is a refreshing freedom and space between Silverstein’s words and neat lines (and black and white drawings) that make you breath and taste fresh air. As you said, “such is his magic.”

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  6. I have a special place in my heart for Shel Silverstein both because I treasured his poems as a child and because I met him in Martha’s Vineyard when I was a teen. We spent the day together visiting antique shop and book stores and talking about poetry. He inspired me to keep writing at a point in my life when I was frustrated and ready to quit. He gave me his number and one of my biggest regrets in life is that I was too shy to follow him up on his offer to spend a day together in NY visiting his favorite book shops.

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  7. Thanks for the Silverstein bonanza! I’ve heard mixed reactions to the latest collection. Anxious to see it for myself. Enjoyed peeking into Don’t Bump the Glump and seeing those funny creatures (hadn’t heard of this early book).

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  8. I feel a bit embarassed, reading this and the comments that I don’t/didn’t know Shel Silverstein’s work It sopunds like I will need to remedy that asap – and I know Little Brother loves any sort of bestiary poetry…

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  9. Myra,
    Loved your Silverstein post. I have baskets and baskets of poetry books and share poetry with my fourth graders every day, Silverstein is always, always, always one of their favorites. I thought I had all of the Silverstein books- it seems like I re-buy them every year because they get worn out, but I have never seen DON’T BUMP THE GLUMP. I will definitely go looking. I have EVERYTHING in my classroom library. The kids read it all the time, but I haven’t spent much time with it. You make me want to go dig it out of someone’s desk and really read it. I’m the mom of a senior in high school and feel like I’m living my own version of “The Clock Man.” Thanks so much!

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    • Hi Carol. At times I just feel that time is in a fast-forward zooming motion, it must be our age, the type of activities we do, where we live at the moment, or simply put our choices in life. I am happy though that you enjoyed this post – The Clock Man does make me think and reflect. Those limitless pauses, I believe, are important as they give us a different taste to our experiences. I’d be keen to know what you think about Every Thing On It. :)

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  10. How fun to look at both of these books side-by-side! And the song at the end is, indeed, the perfect soundtrack for The Clock Man.

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  11. loved the post and the peek into ‘Everything on It’ (The Clock Man is just wonderful, just like each and everyone of his poems…) I am glad my kids are growing up loving Shel Silverstein – I discovered and fell in love with his writing only a few years ago…

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  12. am also following you now….

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3 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Comment Challenge 2012 « Think Kid, Think!
  2. List of Novels in Verse and Poetry Books for Children and Round-up for January 2012 «
  3. Poetry Friday: Shel Silverstein’s ‘He Tried to Hide’ «

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