and Other Fantasies
by Shel Silverstein
64 pages, HarperCollins, reissue edition 2008
Review by Melissa Conway
The scuffed covers and torn pages show how much my now-grown daughter loved Shel Silverstein’s ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ and ‘A Light in the Attic.’ I seem to recall she got them for Christmas from her great-uncle when she was around eight, before that dratted video game bug attached itself to her brainstem. I started reading them to her little brother (fifteen years her junior) when he was only four, and as a true Boy, he was fascinated by the simple, but often quite gruesome line drawings that accompanied each poem, even if he didn’t understand them very well.
So last year when I saw that a “new” Silverstein book of poetry was being released, I snapped it up. When I began reading it to my son, despite being familiar with Silverstein’s style, I thought, “This stuff is bizarre.” My son didn’t like it much, either. Even though he enjoyed the depictions of strange, monstrous creatures, the short rhyming verses in ‘Don’t Bump the Glump’ made even less sense to him than Sidewalk or Attic had when he was younger. In fact, after reading about the “Underslung Zath,” the Bibely, who “rather enjoys (eating) girls and boys,” the Long-necked Preposterous (looking around for a female Long-necked Preposterous), and the Bulbulous Brole, who has a “masculine need for eating his mate,” I thought, “This stuff is more than bizarre, it’s almost…adult.”
We relegated the book to a spot on my son’s bookshelf until I chose it for today’s review. As I flipped to the publisher’s page, much to my *not* surprise, I read the words, “Most of the material in this book originally appeared in Playboy Magazine and is reprinted with permission.”
I’m sorry, but am I the only one who finds it curious that a series of poems/drawings that was considered appropriate to publish in Playboy some 45-odd years ago, was then compiled in a book for children originally called ‘Uncle Shelby’s Zoo: Don’t Bump the Glump’? While not necessarily unsuitable to repackage for children, the collection is certainly not innocent. I’m surprised the Playboy association alone—especially back in the ‘60’s—didn’t prevent the book from hitting the kiddie shelves.
But there’s more! One of Silverstein’s poems in Glump is called ‘There’s a Gritchen in my Kitchen,’ and the more I read, the more familiar it sounded. I popped upstairs to my son’s room and grabbed his copy of ‘There’s a Wocket in my Pocket’ by Dr. Seuss. Both book and poem describe strange creatures living in houses, where the creature’s names are made-up to rhyme with household items. Silverstein has a “lubbard in the cupboard” and Seuss has “nupboards in the cupboards.”
Um, in the spirit of Seuss’ popular tongue-twister book ‘Fox in Socks,’ can we say, “Seuss stole Shel Silverstein’s stuff?” Further, since this particular sample of Silverstein’s stuff was originally published in Playboy, makes one wonder what Seuss was reading for inspiration! Okay, hahaha, don’t crucify me! I love Seuss as much as the next person (Silverstein, too, for that matter); I just notice things like this, and sometimes I try to connect dots that may be pure coincidence. So, yeah, just because Silverstein wrote a poem in Glump called “The Trap,” where the first verse goes, “Let us set a little trap for the Grinch, Grinch, Grinch,” doesn’t mean Seuss cribbed the name for his famous Christmas story. For all I know, the two were best buds and Silverstein knew Seuss was going to write something eerily similar.
As for the contents of ‘Don’t Bump the Glump,’ I guess I shouldn’t worry about my son figuring out the barely detectable “adult” undertones to the poems, at least not until he’s an adult himself, when he might find it all a bit disillusioning. Or maybe he’ll find it amusing in a head-scratching kind of way, as I do.