Where the Sidewalk Ends

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Where the Sidewalk Ends Book Poster Image
Irresistible collection of clever, hilarious poems.

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 4+
Based on 2 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Where the Sidewalk Ends is a terrific introduction to the breadth and diversity of poetry. There are short poems and long ones, rhyming and non-rhyming verses, epigrams, and visual poems. 

Positive Messages
Amid the silliness, Silverstein sneaks in words of wisdom: gentle prodding to take risks, to daydream, to consider other points of view, to be a good person ... but not to follow rules blindly.
Positive Role Models & Representations
Silverstein models gentleness and kindheartedness. He professes a fondness for "hug o' war" rather than tug o' war, for example. He writes with knowing affection for thumbsuckers, enjoys a laugh with tellers of tall tales, and encourages his readers to actively engage with the world.
Violence & Scariness
The poems flirt with dark territory, but are never frightening: There's a man whose co-worker accidentally hammers a nail through his head, a chef short on ingredients who resorts to making "Me-Stew," a child's lament that someone (burp) ate the baby, and insatiable Hungry Mungry, who starts by devouring his supper and then the universe and finally himself.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Where the Sidewalk Ends is a beloved collection of humorous poems and drawings first published by Shel Silverstein (The Giving Tree) in 1974. Some poems are a bit macabre -- a skinny boy who disappears down the bathtub drain, a crocodile with a toothache who chomps a sadistic dentist, and so on. But there's compassion and morality in here too, leavened with comic mayhem. Great as a read aloud for pre-readers, a book for beginning readers, and a surefire hit with third and fourth graders who get a kick out of reading and reciting the many funny poems.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 7 and 9-year-old Written byMrs. C. B. September 22, 2017
Parent Written byPaulus K. September 12, 2017

One Of The Best!

Shel Silverstein is one of the best poets who has ever lived, bar none. His way with words and his wit are simply in a category all their own when it comes to... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byTheLostPotato June 8, 2018
Kid, 12 years old July 9, 2013

Some depressing poems (for me, anyway). Watch out if your kid is very young or sensitive.

There's a poem where a person used to be able to be part of nature and he can't be anymore, so that's sad, but most of the poems are funny or at... Continue reading

What's the story?

Shel Silverstein opens WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS with an invitation to dreamers, wishers, liars, and more to gather round and spin "flax-golden tales." What follows is a charming collection of wittily subversive poems and line drawings: There's a fed-up boy trying to sell his sister, a child who hoards wishes, a boy who uses his magical eraser to handle a skeptic, a lazy girl who just waits for it to rain so she can have something to drink, a warning about the sharp-toothed snail that lies in wait for nose-pickers. The 30th anniversary edition published in 2004 includes an extra dozen poems.

Is it any good?

Where the Sidewalk Ends is a treasure trove for young readers: eloquent, outrageous, subversive, nonsensical, and daring. Shel Silverstein comes across as favorite uncle, gleefully snickering along with the kids even as he comforts their hurts and gently shares lessons on living a good and vibrant life. 
Silverstein's poems -- rhythmic and packed with clever gags -- are favorites for memorization and recitation. His playful language and eccentric artwork are irresistible. And his joyful glee is contagious: His work is a surefire way to inspire kids to write poems of their own. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the many styles of poetry in Where the Sidewalk Ends. Look for rhyming words, visual gags, and different forms of rhythm and repetition. 
  • Write poetry together. To get started, choose one of Silverstein's poems and try writing an extra verse or two. A good starting point is "Toucan," which ends with the lines: "Who can write some/ More about the toucan?/ You can!"
  • Listen to Silverstein's recording of Where the Sidewalk Ends. Some of the poems in collection were also set to music, including "The Unicorn," "Helping," and "Boa Constrictor."

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love poetry and humor

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate