Do you remember Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout?
If your answer to that question was: "She would not take the garbage out!" then you grew up with the children's writer Shel Silverstein. My classmates and I used to memorize Silverstein's poems, pass his books around like they were the holy grail, scream lines from them across the playground.
Shel Silverstein is the author American classics like THE GIVING TREE, WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS and A LIGHT IN THE ATTIC. His stories and poetry are wacky and funny, but also sweet and even thought-provoking. I used to teach persuasive writing by asking my secondary school students to write thesis-statements about THE GIVING TREE.
So imagine my shock (even horror) to learn that Brits did not grow up with Shel Silverstein. Most Brits have never even heard of Shel Silverstein.
In my own very small way, I tried to remedy that earlier this month when my class discussed children's poetry. My classmates brought in several wonderful examples, including Robert Louis Stevenson's A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES; T.S Eliot's "Macavity-The Mystery Cat" and Roald Dahl's REVOLTING RHYMES (Do take note of the ages of the poems we shared; our class discussed the severe lack of modern poetry published, especially for children). Our teacher shared CURTAINS by Matt Harvey, which I thoroughly enjoyed (if you follow the link, you can watch him read it aloud!).
I couldn't limit myself to just one, so I bought in two Shel Silverstein's poems: "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out" (follow the link to see the poem is its entirety) and "Hug O' War" (see below):
I will not play at tug o' war
I'd rather play at hug o' war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses
And everyone grins
And everyone cuddles
And everyone wins.
"Hug O' War" is borrowed from Where the Sidewalk Ends: the poems & drawings of Shel Silverstein, published by Harper & Row Junior Books, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10022. Copyright © 1974 by Evil Eye Music, Inc.