In honour of World Poetry Day, I will share my recent re-discovery of a classic book of poems. If you’ll remember from my
rant post about Scholastic’s recent Top 100 Greatest Books for Kids, I admitted that I had not read many of the books on the list. One of the books I had presumably not read was Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. So in all fairness to the efforts put forth to compile the list, I decided to look up some of the books on the list and I checked this one out of the local library.
Imagine my surprise when I sat down with my son and opened up the tome that is this collection of poems only to discover many, many very familiar poems!
So way, way back when I was in elementary school, I used to participate in the annual poetry festivals. Indulge with me for one moment so that I can mention that I won the poetry writing contest for my french poem “My Chaton” when I was in Kindergarten! Trust me, it was pretty much downhill after that. But I digress…every year (pretty much at this time of year), the kids in each class who wished to participate (and, yes, I was one of those keeners!) would have to choose a poem from a short list provided by the teacher. The kids would then memorize the poem they chose and audition to take part in the festival (which involved competing with the 6 or so other schools in our district).
AHA! The list of poems came from Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends!! After all these years, I’ve found the source! And, you know what? My son LOVED reading those poems with me. Who knew?!
But the best was still to come. I nearly choked on my tea when I turned to pages 58-59 as memories rained down on me. There it was, after all these years…Sick.
A bit of background is necessary here. Truth be told, I was really not that great at reading poetry. I was really great at memorizing poems, but it really ended there. I would practice and practice and practice. And then there was the rehearsal in front of my family. My sister decided that clearly I needed a great deal of help in interpreting the poem (Sick). “Your belly-button is CAVING IN,” she said, bending over poking in her bellybutton. “I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,” she wails clasping her hands around her neck to simulate gagging. Who knew you could so dramatically act out a sliver in your thumb or a hangnail!?
The big day is here – I am sooo ready! Unfortunately so is my arch-rival from the competing school: N. J. She was beautiful. She was poised. She was smart. She could sing. AND, she could recite poetry. And, sadly for me, she also chose to recite Sick that year AND she is really, really, really good at feigning illness. Congratulations again N.J.! lol
So, hats off to poets of today and yesteryear on this World Poetry Day. Here is Shel Silverstein’s poem, Sick, published in Where the Sidewalk Ends by Harper Collins Publishers in 1974. I will never forget that little Peggy Ann McKay and the instamatic flu!
Sick by Shel Silverstein
“I cannot go to school today,”
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I’m going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox
And there’s one more – that’s seventeen,
And don’t you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut, my eyes are blue –
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I’m sure that my left leg is broke –
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button’s caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained,
My ‘pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb,
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is – what?
What’s that? What’s that you say?
You say today is…Saturday?
G-bye, I’m going out to play!”
One Final Note: In my humble opinion, I do agree with Scholastic’s inclusion of Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein in the Top 100 Greatest Books for Kids. It is well-deserved and I can share with you that my son would agree! In Canada In U.S.