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Children's Literature @ NYPL, Poetry Month

Booktalking "A Light in the Attic" by Shel Silverstein


Shel Silverstein's poems are humorous; no one can deny this.

In "How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes," kids learn how to avoid this onerous chore. Silverstein's advice? Drop one onto the floor. The illustration includes a huge dish that is covering a girl's entire body.

The poem about babysitter, "The Sitter" is quite unexpected.

Mrs. McTwitter the baby-sitter

I think she's a little bit crazy.

She thinks a baby-sitter's supposed

To sit upon the baby.

"Rock N' Roll Band" is about all of the things you do in a rock band: wear spangly things, be cheered by a crowd, sign autographs, have long hair, and simply enjoy the fame.

Librarians and bibliophiles everywhere will love the poem: "Blame." A goat ate the book that I wrote for you, so I wrote another one. If you do not like it, it is the goat's fault. There is an illustration of a goat seated in front of a book with a bite taken out of it, looking so happy.

"Snake problem." There is one word for this poem: priceless.

It's not that I don't care for snakes

But oh what do you do

When a 24-foot python says...

I love you?

"Bear in There" is about a polar bear who likes to be in the Frigidaire because it is cold.

He's nibbling the noodles

He's munching the rice

He's slurping the soda.

He's licking the ice.

"Overdues" is about a library book that is 42 years overdue and the elderly borrower cannot pay the fine. The old man is illustrated clutching a library book to his chest, looking anxious and stressed-out.

"Tired" is about working hard, not having enough time to accomplish what you want to, supervising the work of arts, catching your own food, and breathing—exhausting!

"Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony" is a tale true to my own heart. I totally know what this poem is about because I was horse-crazy as a kid, and I still am.

And her parents said,

"Well, you can't have a pony

But you can have a nice butter pecan

Ice cream cone when we get home."

Well, young Abigail DID die of a broken heart when her parents did not buy her a pony. This is a cautionary tale to parents everywhere who deny their kids what they desire.

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein, 1974

I was introduced to the work of Shel Silverstein by my mother when I was a kid because she was such a big fan of his. When I showed the kids in the summer camp his books last year, they were enthralled. I opened the book and flipped through the pages, and the kids told me which poems they would like me to read based on the illustrations, which Shel Silverstein drew. They immediately became excited and happy about the poetry, and it was great to see kids get engaged with literature.


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