I was volunteering at the school library today when a wide-eyed fifth-grade girl ran in and breathlessly asked the librarian for Where the Sidewalk Ends. Pointed in the right direction, she dashed over to the 811's, exclaiming, "I need it for my buddy class." (Fifth graders are paired up with "buddies" in kindergarten at Junior's school.) The drama of the moment impressed me as I tried to imagine what sort of situation (and we all know there are plenty of situations in kindergarten) demanded to be remedied by Shel Silverstein's book of poems and drawings. Whatever it was, I admired the fifth-grader's ingenuity and taste.
The funny thing is that my six-year-old and I spent close to an hour (an hour!) reading Where the Sidewalk Ends yesterday. The 30th anniversary edition was one of my thrift-store finds last year, but I'd forgotten about it until I pulled it off the shelf last night. "Read another!" Junior kept saying. We'd laugh at one, then read some more. Except for the one on the soundtrack of "Free to Be You and Me," I didn't know these poems, either. When Silverstein titled one poem "Naked Hippo" and rhymed "Hippopotamus" and "bottomus," well, I think Junior found a new favorite book. Tonight after his bath he came into the room where I was working at the computer and asked me where "that funny poem book" was because he wanted to share it with his dad. He asked in a much less dramatic fashion than the fifth-grader, but clearly it was just the thing he needed, too.