cover image Every Thing On It

Every Thing On It

Shel Silverstein. Harper, $19.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-06-199816-4

This posthumous collection of Silverstein's poems and illustrations is not only familiar in design, but chockfull of the whimsical humor, eccentric characters, childhood fantasies, and iconoclastic glee that his many fans adore. Like the boy who orders a hot dog "with everything on it" (" came with a parrot,/ A bee in a bonnet,/ A wristwatch, a wrench, and a rake"), there are plenty of surprises in store for readers. Although a few poems feel a tad fragmentary, overall the volume includes some of Silverstein's strongest work, brilliantly capturing his versatility and topsy-turvy viewpoint. The poems take expectedly unexpected twists (Walenda the witch rides a vacuum cleaner); a few are gross ("Let's just say/ I took a dare," reads "Mistake," as Silverstein shows a snake trailing out of a boy's pair of shorts, its tail still entering through his mouth), but many more display Silverstein's clever wordplay, appreciation of everyday events, and understated wisdom. "There are no happy endings./ Endings are the saddest part,/ So just give me a happy middle/ And a very happy start." The silly-for-the-sake-of-silly verses are nicely balanced with sweetly contemplative offerings, including a poignant final poem that offers an invitation to readers: "When I am gone what will you do?/ Who will write and draw for you?/ Someone smarter%E2%80%94someone new?/ Someone better%E2%80%94maybe YOU!" All ages. (Sept.)