Wednesday, September 21, 2011

From Tortellini to Tetrazzini

As far as children’s literature goes, I can claim only a small kernel of knowledge. Names of the most ‘famous’ children’s books published in earlier years are pretty much familiar, but only because they’ve been around for so long. There is one particular book written in 1964 for children between the ages of four and eight that made a strong impression on me—so strong in fact, I added it to the reading list in a literature course for university sophomores. The book is Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, one that has been translated into over thirty foreign languages and sold 5.6 million copies since its first printing. Anyone familiar with this classic will be quick to agree that there is enough in this small book to stir the thoughts of readers long past the age of eight. The writer died in 1999 at his home in Key West, Florida.

HarperCollins released yesterday a new book of never before seen Shel Silverstein’s poems selected by his family from his archives. The book is titled Every Thing On It and contains over 130 poems and drawings edited out of earlier books, not because the author didn’t like them, but felt instead they didn’t fit into the order he was looking for in a given collection. Working closely with the poet’s family, and following the methods of Silverstein familiar for many years, editor Toni Markiet sought the same balance and pacing common to the earlier books. From those books she absorbed Silverstein’s knack for creating an interesting page no matter where the book is opened, and to always create a right-hand page that encourages a child to turn the page.

Markiet explains that the book’s title and accompanying illustration were perfect for a cover because of the curious stack of things in the boy’s hands, a mass of oddments piled on top of a hot dog. The press release for yesterday included two poems from the new book. Both poems are good, but the second in particular cries to be read aloud.


I asked for a hot dog

With everything on it,

And that was my big mistake,

’Cause it came with a parrot,

A bee in a bonnet,

A wristwatch, a wrench, and a rake.

It came with a goldfish,

A flag, and a fiddle,

A frog, and a front porch swing,

And a mouse in a mask—

That’s the last time I ask

For a hot dog with everything.


Oh, how I love Italian food.
I eat it all the time,
Not just ’cause how good it tastes
But ’cause how good it rhymes.
Minestrone, cannelloni,
Macaroni, rigatoni,
Spaghettini, scallopini,
Escarole, braciole,
Insalata, cremolata, manicotti,
Marinara, carbonara,
Shrimp francese, Bolognese,
Ravioli, mostaccioli,
Mozzarella, tagliatelle,
Fried zucchini, rollatini,
Fettuccine, green linguine,
Tortellini, Tetrazzini,
Oops—I think I split my jeani.


  1. One of my favorite books....."The Giving Tree". I love the poems you have quoted here. He really was a great writer. Loved your post.

  2. Is there anyone who doesn't like Shel Silverstein? As a career bookseller, sold countless numbers of The Giving Tree, and many many bought by adults for adults. Timeless message, heartwarming, heartbreaking. No doubt the new book will be grand.


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America