Shel Silverstein

There is no question that Shel Silverstein books are amongst the most beloved by kids and adults alike. His wonderful poems have been published since 1955 and no children’s literature collection would be complete without at least one work by him. With unique illustrations and humorous words, he has inspired kids for generations.

Top 5 Shel Silverstein Books & Poems

where the sidewalk ends Where the Sidewalk Ends: The best selling Shel Silverstein book of all time, Where the Sidewalk Ends is chock full of the silly wordplay he’s so well known for. The question is always the same: is there a moral or a lesson to be learned? Many people think there isn’t, but if you dig deep beneath these humorous poems, you’ll find that there may be more than you thought. At the very least, these sly, silly, and unique poems will help get kids excited about poetry and literary words. These are extremely accessible poems that are like nothing you’ve likely read before, or nothing you’ll read again.
the giving tree The Giving Tree: The 2nd best selling book by Mr. Silverstein is The Giving Tree, which is different than the majority of his books in that it’s written in prose instead of poetry. It has been described as the best of children’s books by many professional reviewers, and for good reason. The truly heart-warming story is that of a boy who comes to the tree each day to eat the tree’s apples, swing from the branches, or slide down her trunk. As he gets older, he has less use for the tree, until finally he realizes he needs her once again and she’s no where to be found.
every thing on it Every Thing On it: The title might clue you into the topics in this book, which really do cover everything. From a toilet troll, to a very strange horn, this is a delightful collection that includes truly original and mesmerizing topics. Once again, this is a book of Shel Silverstein poems and original drawings that are unlike anything you’ll see elsewhere. While he does typically include a rhyme scheme, this is no Dr. Seuss. This book is a great companion to other books by Mr. Silverstein, but it’s also a great starting point for those who haven’t yet been introduced.
falling up Falling Up: Readers are treated to a motley crew of unforgettable characters in this charming collection. Poor Screamin’ Millie is one of the most well known characters, and one who will make readers laugh and chuckle along with her trials and tribulations. Allison Beals and her twenty-five eels also make an appearance, and readers are introduced to Danny O’Dare, who is a dancing bear, the Human Balloon, and of course Headphone Harold who never takes his headphones off. Like most of Shel Silverstein’s collections, this is full of word play, funny puns, and wonderful illustrations done in his highly lauded style.
a light in the attic A Light in the Attic: Often dubbed the funniest of children’s books, this book is full of truly hilarious poems that showcase how children think. One of the most commonly cited poems from this collection is “Prayer of the Selfish Child,” who prays that if they should not make it through the night, the Lord will break all their toys so no one else can use them. While these are light hearted, funny poems, it’s also true that there are lessons to be learned below the surface. This book is similar to Where the Sidewalk Ends, but has its own unique charm.

Other Great Shel Silverstein Books

runny babbit: a billy sook Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook: This is different than many of the books on the list, because it isn’t simply a collection of Shel Silverstein poems. Instead, it is the story of Runny Babbit and his funny friends. From Toe Jurtle, to Skertie Gunk, to Rity Dat, to Dungry Hog, readers will laugh out loud at the topsy-turvy language created in this book. Snerry Jake and all his pals accompany Runny Babbit on a host of adventures, each one more ridiculous and funny than the next. With warm-hearted humor and lots of love, Mr. Silverstein created an entirely unique world with this book.
a giraffe and a half A Giraffe and a Half: It starts with a giraffe, and the next thing you know it’s a giraffe and a half. Then it’s… well, let’s just say it goes on and on! Kids will enjoy this from beginning to the very funny end, which couldn’t possibly be more ridiculous. As with most of his books, this one is funny from start to finish, and it includes plenty of line drawings that will suck kids in. Whether you’re new to Shel Silverstein books or you want to own every book he’s written and illustrated, this one is a must have and one that’s sure to delight.
uncle shelby’s abz book: a primer for adults only Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book: A Primer for Adults Only: Despite what the name says, this is a book for young and old alike. The story speaks directly to the reader, and goes from A to Z, describing various parts of our every day lives. While there is plenty of humor that adults will appreciate, it is written for children. Beware that some of the humor may have the effect of making you laugh right out of your chair, like the ‘free coupon’ that entitles the person who has it to get a free pony from the closest adult! Many of the day to day fears of children are addressed and put to rest in this book.
the missing piece The Missing Piece: The poor little circle is missing a piece. What is to be done? Off on a journey the circle goes, in search of the piece it’s missing. With many mishaps along the way, pieces are found that don’t quite fit – but come close! – and plenty of special consideration is given to what it means to be missing a piece, the story of this circle will touch everyone who reads the tale. Similar to many famous fables, the story deals with the nature of a quest, the fulfillment of the quest, and the unexpected lessons that are learned along the way.
the missing piece meets the big o The Missing Piece Meets the Big O: The other side of the circle with the missing piece is the missing piece, of course. And what does the missing piece think when he’s no longer a part of the circle? Off on a journey of his own, he comes across the Big O, who is a circle that’s been completed. He remembers being a part of just such a circle, but he can’t seem to fit in. As is always the case in Shel Silverstein books, Mr. Silverstein tells the tale with lots of humor and puns, and we all get another side of the story – which goes to show that there are always two sides to any story.
lafcadio, the lion who shot back Lafcadio, The Lion Who Shot Back: But you don’t have to shoot me, the lion tries to convince the hunter. He promises to be his rug, lie in front of the fireplace, and even let the hunter roast marshmallows while sitting on his back. Of course the hunter won’t listen, so the lion has no choice but to gobble the hunter up whole! After taking the hunter’s gun and practicing for himself, he becomes the greatest sharp-shooter in the entire world. With world wide fame, the lion begins to wonder if he’s really a happy lion… or if he’s even a lion at all.
who wants a cheap rhinoceros? Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros?: Who’s in the mood for a cheap rhinoceros? Dogs are boring, everyone has a cat. Goldfish just swim around, and gerbils just run. Hamsters? Don’t get me started! This book follows one lucky boy and his very unusual pet! To be sure, there is no risk of being bored when a rhinoceros is your pet. One of the more recent Shel Silverstein books, this still includes all the wit and the drawings you’d expect. Parents will enjoy reading this book to their kids – but they better be prepared to talk them out of a rhinoceros of their own!
don’t bump the glump! Don’t Bump the Glump!: Another book that focuses on silly, crazy creatures, Don’t Bump the Glump! asks all the important questions. Like, have you ever seen a Gritchen in your kitchen? Or have you danced with a One-Legged Zantz? Perhaps you’ve dined with the Glub-Toothed Sline? If not, then you’re in for a treat. Younger kids will wonder if these are real animals, while older kids will laugh at their similarities to dinosaurs and contemporary animals. Some silly and some scary, these are creatures that won’t soon be forgotten. Of all the children’s books about animals both real and imagined, this is likely the most unique.
different dances Different Dances: Unlike the other books on this list, Different Dances is indeed written for an adult audience. With provocative and often startling subjects, the literary master takes on some of the social taboos of the adult world. Whether you agree or disagree with his opinions, you can’t help but laugh at the way he deals with some of the more absurd aspects of adult life. This is the perfect book for an adult who grew up reading Shel’s books for children and wants their own adult treat. While none of the subject matters are particular difficult to understand, the subjects can be a bit much for children.

There is no question that Shel Silverstein will have a place in history as one of the most unique, brilliant, and fascinating creators of children’s literature. These are not your typical simple tales, they all have their own unique twists and turns, with plenty of humor for both kids and adults to enjoy.

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