cover image RUNNY BABBIT: A Billy Sook

RUNNY BABBIT: A Billy Sook

Shel Silverstein, Author, Shel Silverstein, Illustrator . Harp

In what may be the definitive book of letter-reversal wordplay, late author-illustrator Silverstein (Where the Sidewalk Ends ) composes poems about cottontail Runny Babbit. He illustrates the verse in his signature devil-may-care ink line on bare white pages, and performs letter switcheroos to the point of reader exhaustion. An introductory poem explains the technique: "If you say, 'Let's bead a rook/ That's billy as can se,'/ You're talking Runny Babbit talk/ Just like mim and he." The exchange of consonants results in a new language, producing Lewis Carroll nonsense or placing familiar words in skewed contexts; for instance, Runny's family includes "A sother and two bristers,/ A dummy and a mad," which says a lot about parents. Runny also has an untidy porcine friend, leading him to sing a serenade with an Edward Learish zest and a classic Silverstein twist at the end, "Oh Ploppy Sig, oh pessy mig,/ Oh dilthy firty swine,/ Whoever thought your room would be/ As mig a bess as mine?" Signs posted on Runny's wall remind him, "tick up your poys," "peed your fet" and "bon't delch"; a restaurant serves "dot hogs" and "boast reef."

Silverstein also revises ditties such as "Dankee Yoodle" and runs roughshod over politeness ("Stand back! I'm Killy the Bid,/ And I'm fookin' for a light!"). Move over Hinky-Pink: this is sure to become the new classroom wordgame favorite. Silverstein's many fans will snap up this extended set of more than 40 puzzlepoems. All ages. (Mar.)