Children’s Poetry Day Means Shel Silverstein! Right? [VIDEO]

shel silverstein children's poetry day

Hey, it’s March 21st–which is also known as Children’s Poetry Day! It would be more fun if the big day referred to poetry written by children. Sadly, all of those important works are more easily found on refrigerators than in bookstores. So we’re just going to figure that Children’s Poetry Day is really Shel Silverstein Day. It might as well be. Take a look around the internet, and you’ll see that all kinds of folks are turning to the Shel Silverstein collections Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic. The first book has been a kiddie classic since 1974, and the second survived some concerns about Shel’s anarchic style when it was published in 1981.  [book photo via gublernation]

You have to be careful with Shel Silverstein’s work, though. The beatnik wrote plenty of adult material. He was a regular contributor to Playboy, and wrote dirty songs on all kinds of topics. He was usually able to keep his work separate–but he had to learn a lesson with the publication of Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book in 1961. It’s lots of fun (like when Q stands for “Quarantine,” which means, “”Come on in, kids. Free ice cream!”), but it was really more of a Young Adult kind of book. Too bad that the Young Adult category didn’t really exist back then. There were enough complaints that an added sticker later defined the book as a “a primer for adults only.”

But don’t hold any of that against Uncle Shelby. He was just a free spirit who taught our kids all kinds of things. He’s even become legendary enough that kids don’t even know when they’re chanting a Shel Silverstein poem. “I”m Being Eaten By A Boa Constrictor” has really been handed down in playgrounds through the years:

I’m being swallowed by a boa constrictor
I’m being swallowed by a boa constrictor
I’m being swallowed by a boa constrictor
And I don’t like it very much

Oh nohe swallowed my toe

Oh mehe swallowed my knee

Oh fiddlehe’s up to my middle

Oh heck–he swallowed my neck 

Oh dread, he’s up to my…slurp, glurp…

It’s hard to keep track of which Shel Silverstein poems ended up as lyrics, and vice versa. Here’s a nice animation of Shel’s “Crocodile’s Toothache,” though. Watch it with your children and then go dig up your old copy of Where The Sidewalk Ends–which, you know, is probably in your book shelf. Start sharing Shel now…