The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

Midway will be taking a break over the summer
After reminiscing with fond memories, Class of 2024 graduates in Rockefeller Chapel

Creativity, childhood imagination thrive in ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’

“Where the Sidewalk Ends,” a poetry collection by Shel Silverstein, has been banned several times since 1986 for profanity and themes of rebellion.

As teenagers, we read increasingly difficult literature for school. We try to distance ourselves from picture books, from rhyming poetry filled with silly characters and wacky situations. Though, through our distance, we can find appreciation for the deeper aspects of these books: the creative, dynamic and comedic world they build.

Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends” is a timeless poetry collection that encapsulates childhood imagination through creative scenarios and clever wordplay, that even 50 years later provides an escape from the often unimaginative tasks of everyday life.

The children’s poetry collection, published in 1974, contains 123 distinct poems, many of which include drawings. Both the poems and drawings are works of Mr. Silverstein. 

The book opens with “Invitation,” one of Mr. Silverstein’s most famous poems. The brief poem invites readers of all kinds into his book, including “dreamers,” “wishers” and “magic bean buyers.” As the book progresses, each poem introduces readers to different characters and scenarios, from Terrible Theresa, who wants a pancake from the middle of a massive stack, to The Long-Haired Boy, whose hair causes him to fly like a helicopter. 

The accompanying line drawings feature a caricature-like style that enhances each poem. For instance, in “Recipe for a Hippopotamus Sandwich,” which gives the recipe for a normal sandwich with a hippopotamus in the middle, the punchline is that the sandwich is easy to make but difficult to eat. The sandwich is difficult to visualize, so the accompanying drawing, which features a massive hippopotamus between two tiny pieces of bread, makes the punchline more clear. 

“Where the Sidewalk Ends,” the titular poem, encapsulates the book’s purpose well. Mr. Silverstein describes the “place where the sidewalk ends,” where childhood imagination thrives, an escape from the “smoke” and “dark street[s]” of the industrial world. Mr. Silverstein combines this escapist nature with a distinct, clever tone. He uses common rhyme schemes like coupled rhyme and four-line rhyme, sometimes combining them. 

In most poems, the beginning lines establish the situation, the middle lines escalate and the final lines divert the reader’s expectations in comedic relief. For instance, in “The Crocodile’s Toothache,” the beginning lines establish that a crocodile went to the dentist for a toothache. The middle lines escalate the situation as the dentist accidentally pulls out one of the crocodile’s many teeth, asking, “What’s one crocodile’s tooth, more or less?” In the final lines, the crocodile eats the dentist, and the narrator concludes, rhetorically, “What’s one dentist, more or less?”

A combination of imaginative description, well-crafted rhymes and creative drawings that bounce through the pages has allowed Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends” to stand the test of time and remain popular today.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Neha Dhawan
Neha Dhawan, Reporter
Neha Dhawan is a member of the Class of 2025. She began journalism as a junior. She enjoys creative writing, especially poems, songs and short stories and is on the girls golf team.

Comments (0)

All U-High Midway Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *