Monday, August 31, 2009

Poetry reissued

My fall semester is starting today, so I have been busy with getting it ready to roll. Still, I don’t want to neglect my poetry postings, so here’s a short note about new "old" poetry books to watch for. Good news! There are a few older poetry books that are being reissued as paperbacks this year. I’m always excited to see that happen because it means they’ll be available a little while longer (since books go out of print so very fast, especially poetry books) and it means that more KIDS may buy them since paperbacks are even more affordable and portable for young readers. So… here are a few notices I’ve encountered, I hope readers will comment on other poetry titles they know are coming out in paperback.

Marilyn Singer—Monster Museum (Disney-Hyperion)

X.J. and Dorothy Kennedy (compilers)—Talking Like the Rain (Little, Brown)

Wouldn’t it be great to see some of Karla Kuskin’s work reissued? I’d vote for Near the Window Tree… or how about some Myra Cohn Livingston gems?

I’m sure you’ve also seen the notice about the new special edition of Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic coming out from HarperCollins. Here’s a newsy nugget from Publisher’s Weekly Children’s Bookshelf, “First published in 1981, Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic was the first children’s book to reach the New York Times bestseller list, where it appeared a total of 182 weeks…. The reissue will include 12 previously unpublished poems and 10 new drawings by the author, who died in 1999. To help promote this new edition, due with a 250,000-copy first printing, the publisher will add new features to the Shel Silverstein Web site and will launch additional online initiatives…. including creating a free iPhone app… and distributing animated videos of Silverstein poems on YouTube and Facebook…. A Light in the Attic continues to be one of HarperCollins’s top-selling children’s books and has sold more than five million copies in North America.”

With Silverstein’s birthday coming up on Sept. 15, it’s a good moment to revisit his kid-friendly, irreverent work—not that he needs any help from me in reaching his audience! Still, here’s one of my favorite poems from A Light in the Attic. I have used it countless times in poetry performances with kids and it’s always a hit. Ask for volunteers for individual lines (while you read the N = narrator parts). There are 20 “Whatif” lines, so a whole class can participate. The poem has a humorous tone, despite the list of worries, but it takes on deeper shades of meaning when children voice the lines. Try it—it may be a good icebreaker for the beginning of the school year when children do have many worries about how the year will go.


by Shel Silverstein

N Last night, while I lay thinking here,

N Some Whatifs crawled inside my ear

N And pranced and partied all night long

N And sang their same old Whatif song:

1 Whatif I’m dumb in school?

2 Whatif they’ve closed the swimming pool?

3 Whatif I get beat up?

4 Whatif there’s poison in my cup?

5 Whatif I start to cry?

6 Whatif I get sick and die?

7 Whatif I flunk that test?

8 Whatif green hair grows on my chest?

9 Whatif nobody likes me?

10 Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?

11 Whatif I don’t grow taller?

12 Whatif my head starts getting smaller?

13 Whatif the fish won’t bite?

14 Whatif the wind tears up my kite?

15 Whatif they start a war?

16 Whatif my parents get divorced?

17 Whatif the bus is late?

18 Whatif my teeth don’t grow in straight?

19 Whatif I tear my pants?

20 Whatif I never learn to dance?

N Everything seems swell, and then

N The nighttime Whatifs strike again!

Afterward, put out a shoe box inviting kids to contribute their own anonymous “whatif” worry lines and then combine them into a new “Whatif” poem to read aloud. It may be reassuring for kids to see that their worries may be shared by others.

Posting (not poem) by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2009. All rights reserved.

Image credit:;


Scotti Cohn said...

I nominated YOU for a Kreativ Blogger Award, because I like what you do for our shared artistic community! Check out my blog to claim the logo,, and keep up the amazing work.

Anonymous said...

Suess gave children's poets permission to be silly and amusing; Silverstein showed us how to be silly and childlike. He invented the genre and still rules it. No one else can pull off writing a poem from inside a lion. Thanks for reminding us.
David Harrison