Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Shel Silverstein is a highly popular writer of children’s poetry, mainly because of his use of nonsense and humor, but he can also show a depth of feeling that encourages readers to examine their own emotions in relation to various aspects of growing up. This collection encompasses 117 poems, ranging in length from three sentences to three pages, that present various objects, experiences, and emotions related to children, their imaginations, and the realities of moving into adolescence. The humorous poems, nonsense poems, and narrative poems of Where the Sidewalk Ends are all interlaced with rhythm, rhyme, sound patterns, and repetition. All are written in such a way as to be timeless.

The first poem in the collection is an invitation to join the author in the world where the sidewalk ends: “If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,/ A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer,/ If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire,/ For we have some flax-golden tales to spin./ Come in! Come in!” Following this poem, Silverstein does exactly as he says: spins golden tales that are sure to entertain and delight young readers, while at the same time providing subjects for in-depth thought or enjoyment, depending on degree of intensity that the reader brings to each poem. Pen-and-ink sketches illustrate the majority of the poems and provide an introduction to each subject even before the first word is read.

The childhood world of Silverstein’s...

(The entire section is 425 words.)