Where the Sidewalk Ends Critical Essays

Shel Silverstein


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The brevity of most of the poems in Where the Sidewalk Ends provides a stimulus to reading. They are less demanding than more lengthy forms of literature, and yet enough information is provided within the body of each poem to provide a complete and comprehensive view of the subject. This collection serves well as an introduction for those young readers who have not yet decided if they truly enjoy poetry or who have not previously been exposed to poetry. It entertains, informs, inspires, and tells of things that may never be as well as of things that may one day be.

The subject matter in the collection appeals to readers of all ages. It is easy to understand, and the reader need not constantly look for the hidden message of a poem. The meanings are apparent upon the initial reading and are flexible enough to communicate with a vast array of readers with differing viewpoints. In fact, some poems focus on the aspect of varying perspectives, such as “Point of View,” and “Forgotten Language.”

On the serious side, Silverstein has included poems such as “Hug o’War,” where everyone wins when hugs take place; “Listen to the Mustn’ts,” where anything can happen as one grows older; “No Difference,” which presents similarities among all people; and “Love,” which implies the need for several people to cooperate in order for love to thrive. All these poems examine realistic situations and present them with an understanding and empathy that immediately communicates itself with the reader.

Probably the most notable aspect of Where the Sidewalk Ends is the inclusion of the nonsense poem, the humorous poem, or a combination of the two. In nonsense poems, meaning takes a second place to...

(The entire section is 716 words.)