Laughter generator: A Giraffe and a Half by Shel Silverstein.

A Giraffe and a HalfGiraffeCover

Picture Book

Ages 2 and Up

By Shel Silverstein

48 pages

HarperCollins Publishers

1964

 

 

Many people know Shel Silverstein (1930-1999) from his poetry books (A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends, just to name two). Some know he was also a cartoonist for Playboy (from 1957 through the mid ‘70s). Others may be familiar with his work as a singer and songwriter (“A Boy Named Sue,” sung by Johnny Cash, and “The Unicorn,” sung by The Irish Rovers, are his most famous). And a few may know he also wrote over one hundred one act plays. The man was a ridiculously talented, and prolific, genius.

He was a regular customer at Books of Wonder. The first time I met him I was utterly speechless and teary eyed. I adore every one of his books. (Thanks to my sister Debbie who made sure I knew him as an author; my sister Theresa made sure I knew him as a musician).

Silverstein’s art comes alive on the page. His uncomplicated illustrations—composed of bold, simple lines and almost always black and white—are distinct and unmistakable.

His text is funny, clever and original. When writing in rhyme, he was able to create a perfect rhythm, an incredibly difficult feat. He possessed the ability to speak directly to children. In fact, many of his books have been banned for being anti-adult.

While researching his banned books I found this little gem on this site that I had to share. “Members of the Central Columbia School District in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania…objected to the poem “Dreadful” over the line “someone ate the baby” because they feared some of their more impressionable students might actually be encouraged to engage in cannibalism.”

 

A Giraffe and a Half starts out simply with a small boy and his giraffe. But what if the giraffe was stretched another half? 

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And he put on a shoe, then stepped in some glue and tripped on a snake, while eating some cake?

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Before long things get a little out of control; the scenarios build and the situation becomes more and more absurd until the poor giraffe falls in a hole.

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But if you brought him a pole to climb out of that hole…”

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And helped undo the glue, and got rid of the shoe, and said goodbye to the snake who already swallowed the cake, and he shrank another half…

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A Giraffe and a Half is a wonderful rhyming picture book and one of the most fun read-aloud books. Just follow the rhythm, build up speed and you’ll have children (and some adults) rolling with laughter.

 

Buy the book!

IndieBound / Powell’s / Amazon

15 Responses so far

  1. 1

    Nick Bruel said,

    I’m going to reveal a little personal note about Jennifer and Shel. On the same day that we at Books of Wonder all heard Shel Silverstein had died, we were coincidentally scheduled to have a staff meeting after the store closed. Jennifer opened that meeting with a reading of “Giraffe and a Half” that I’ll never forget. I think we were all struggling to keep it together.

    It’s funny, Jennifer, that you quoted a line from a library that banned Shel’s work. During one of the very last conversations I ever had with him… maybe THE last conversation I had with him… Shelly (as we at BOW affectionately called him) swore to me that he had no idea that any of his books were ever banned. I really wasn’t sure that I believed him, so I went to the back and photocopied the two pages dedicated to his work from the annual ABA Banned Book guide book. We on the staff read out loud the many quotes about his banned books as Shelly laughed out loud. I’ll never forget it.


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