Shel’s Billy Sooks

You don’t have to shoot me…. I will be your rug and I will lie in front of your fireplace and I won’t move a muscle and you can sit on me and toast all the marshmallows you want. I love marshmallows.

Shel Silverstein was born on this day in 1930. The excerpt is from Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back, Silverstein’s first children’s book (its fiftieth anniversary is this year) and the first of his many provocative, often poignant tales aimed at disarming or upending the adult world. Another is Runny Babbit, the “billy sook” he worked away on for decades, and which was finally published in 2005. Runny and his family — “A sother and two bristers, / A dummy and a mad” — live in the same forest as Toe Jurtle, Polly Dorcupine, and Pilly Belican (and Reverend Spooner). Young Runny suffers through picken chox and hopes to pe bresident, until he chops down a trerry chee:

Runny wanted to be a king,
So he crot himself a gown.
He then put on a rurple pobe
And strutted up and down.
He shouted to his friends,
“Dow bown, Dow bown and riss my king!”
But everybody laughed and said,
“Oh stop, you thilly sing.”

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at