Shel Silverstein (A & W)
My elementary school really pounded Shel Silverstein’s poems into us. I have vivid memories of teachers reading bits from A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends to us (along with The Giving Tree, one of the saddest stories written). His wiggly-lined, black and white images made us smile and the poems had happy, poppy rhythms. Whenever the teacher busted one of his books out the class went abuzz. There was everything to love and nothing to hate. But one day, Shel Silverstein was ruined for me. During my mid-teens I went to an antiquarian book show and saw a copy of a Silverstein book I’d never seen before. It was a collection of his “adult” drawings. I was thrilled to find something of his that I hadn’t seen yet, pulled it down from the shelf, and found myself flipping through pornographic images. I was puzzled and continued turning the pages as I tried to figure out what I was looking at. And then I landed on a set of images that are burned into my memory. Titled “Daughter, Beware of Men Bearing Pedestals,” it depicted a man presenting a woman with a pedestal, worshipping her as she climbs on it, and then murdering her with the pedestal after she falls down. It’s more of a commentary on misogyny than an actual example of misogyny, but it still tainted his work for me. Seeing his adult drawings cast an entirely different light on his books of poems. This was a case of love gone sour.
Nancy McArthur (A)
When I was in the second grade our teacher held a competition called “The Reading Olympics.” We were supposed to record everything we read and how long it took to read, and whoever read the most after three weeks won a grand prize. After a week went by I noticed that a boy I had a crush on was in first place, so I decided to impress him by crushing him in the competition. I started reading like a maniac to make sure I beat him fair and square (this was an intense few weeks, because I already constantly read), and started digging into my older brothers’ old books. When I read this I thought it was the funniest thing ever. I don’t remember anything about it other than the fact that I read it repeatedly and laughed and laughed. I bet you a thousand dollars that if I read it now I’d realize how terrible it was, so I refuse to reread it. I’d rather remember the laughs. (P.S. I wiped the floor with that kid. The medal was mine.)