Welcome to the darkly comic world of Shel Silverstein, a world where nothing is as it seems and where the most innocent conversation can turn menacing in an instant. The ten imaginative plays in this collection range widely in content, but the style is unmistakable. ONE TENNIS SHOE. Harvey needs to broach a delicate subject with his wife. He claims Sylvia is becoming a bag lady, but she protests that her Bloomingdales' shopping bag doesn't make her a bag lady. No, says Harvey, but the picture frame, couch cushion...
Welcome to the darkly comic world of Shel Silverstein, a world where nothing is as it seems and where the most innocent conversation can turn menacing in an instant. The ten imaginative plays in this collection range widely in content, but the style is unmistakable. ONE TENNIS SHOE. Harvey needs to broach a delicate subject with his wife. He claims Sylvia is becoming a bag lady, but she protests that her Bloomingdales' shopping bag doesn't make her a bag lady. No, says Harvey, but the picture frame, couch cushion and single tennis shoe retrieved from the garbage do. Not to mention the cold cooked oatmeal in her purse. (1 man, 1 woman.) BUS STOP. Irwin stands on a street corner with a sign reading "bust stop." When Celia passes, he stops her and proceeds to run through the entire list of slang for her breasts, but Celia turns the tables on him with a lengthy and demeaning list of her own. (1 man, 1 woman.) GOING ONCE. In a simultaneously comic and chilling monologue an auctioneer shows off a woman, who is putting herself up for auction to the highest bidder. (1 man, 1 woman.) THE BEST DADDY. Lisa's got the best daddy in the world. After all, he bought her a pony for her birthday. Too bad he shot it dead. Or did he? Maybe it was Lisa's older sister. (1 man, 1 woman.) THE LIFEBOAT IS SINKING. Jen and Sherwin sit safely on their bed, but Jen forces her husband to imagine they are on a sinking boat in the middle of a terrible storm. Waves fill the boat with water; there are no life jackets; and Sherwin must decide whether he should throw his mother overboard or condemn them all to die. (1 man, 1 woman.) SMILE. Bender and his henchmen drag Gibby into a room and throw him to the ground. Gibbyprotests that he hasn't done anything wrong, but Bender and the others know better. They have found the man responsible for the '70s smiley face and the phrase "Have a nice day," and they're going to make him pay. (4 men.) WASH AND DRY. Marianne stops by the laundromat, but she's horrified to discover that her laundry hasn't been cleaned. George counters he never agreed to wash it. "George's Watch and Dry," he says. "You gotta pay attention." (2 men, 1 woman.) THINKING UP A NEW NAME FOR THE ACT. Pete hits on the phrase "Meat and Potatoes" as the perfect name for their vaudeville act, but Lucy doesn't like it. They get into a terrible fight, and Lucy kills Pete. A police investigation, trial and execution quickly follow. And the only words in this farcical sketch are "Meat and Potatoes." (1 man, 1 woman, 9 men or women.) BUY ONE GET ONE FREE. Merrilee and Sherilee are offering the deal of the century. "Buy one, get one free," the hookers sing to a tempted Lee. It's a golden opportunity. And it all rhymes. (1 man, 2 women.) BLIND WILLIE AND THE TALKING DOG. Blind Willie sings the blues and asks passersby if they can spare a nickel or dime to help him and his hungry dog. But his dog can't understand why Willie refuses to use the fact that he owns a talking dog to make some real money. (2 men.)"
Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.13 (d)
Meet the Author
Not only was Shel Silverstein one of the funniest children’s book authors, he was also one of the most subversive. Through his irresistible rhymes, poems, and drawings, Silverstein made children feel like they were being spoken to as adults; and adults the chance to remember what it felt like to be a child.
If there is such a thing as a "bad boy of children's literature," it would have to be Shel Silverstein. Though often compared to Dr. Seuss for his ability to blend humor and nonsense into irresistible rhymes, Silverstein also ventured into macabre territory that the good Doctor wouldn't have touched with a ten-foot Sneetch. Silverstein broached such unsavory topics as nose-picking, the consumption of children, and winds so strong they could decapitate a man right out from under his hat.
It's a testament to Silverstein's abilities as a cartoonist and storyteller that he was able to endow such subjects with just the right silliness and humor, endearing him to both children and adults. In collections such as the classic Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and Falling Up, Silverstein makes poems into page-turners -- aided in no small part by his grungy, whimsical black-and-white drawings. He also displays a tenderhearted understanding for kids' fears and peccadilloes; one poem in A Light in the Attic, for example, all but endorses nailbiting: "It's a nasty habit, but ... I have never ever scratched a single soul."
A lifelong writer and illustrator, Silverstein had been a cartoonist for an army newspaper in Korea in the 1950s, and then a contributor to magazines. Like many succesful writers for children, Silverstein never planned to author children's books. Ironically, his first attempt at the genre -- the book that established the one-time Playboy cartoonist as a school library fixture -- is something of an anomaly in his ouevre: The Giving Tree. This bittersweet story of a tree that ultimately sacrifices itself -- down to the stump -- to the boy she loves over the course of his life was initially rejected by Silverstein's editor. Of course, it has gone on to be a great, if sentimental, success. But it was Where the Sidewalk Ends, Silverstein's straightforward collection of crooked poems, that cemented his place as a must-read for the young and young at heart. Silverstein bristled at comparisons to fellow "nonsense poet" Edward Lear, preferring instead to cite his former teacher, Robert Cosbey, as an influence.
It's worth looking at some of Silverstein's less well-known picture books, such as Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros? and Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back, as examples of how funny (and how subversive) Silverstein could be. In Lafcadio, the ultimate anti-hunting story, a lion learns to become such a good marksman that he provides "hunter rugs" for his fellow lions and ends up touring as a celebrity. Lafcadio soon gets bored with his opulent life, and what used to be thrilling no longer is: "This morning I went up and down in the elevator 1,423 times," he cries at one point. "IT'S OLD STUFF!"
In later years, Silverstein turned more attention to dramatic writing. Titles such as The Lady and the Tiger, Wild Life and The Devil and Billy Markham were produced with varying degrees of success, and some are still being staged by small theater groups. Silverstein also wrote a well-received screenplay, Things Change, with pal David Mamet in 1988.
Still, Silverstein's poetry is what remains his most popular contribution. His verse gave kids permission to be a little grown-up for a while, and (just as importantly) let adults experience the not-always-simple perspective of children.
Good To Know
Silverstein was a soldier in the U.S. Army in Japan and Korea in the '50s and drew cartoons for Stars and Stripes, the American military publication. His next cartooning gig was for Playboy.
Silverstein wrote several songs. His country-western song "A Boy Named Sue" was a hit for Johnny Cash in 1969. His song for Postcards From the Edge, "I'm Checkin' Out," was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.