A good time was had by all

Mrs. G's Book Club discusses the works of Shel Silverstein
06:01 PM CDT on Tuesday, April 13, 2004

By JEAN NASH JOHNSON / The Dallas Morning News

No grown-ups

No grown-ups allowed

We're playin' a game,

And we don't need

"Be-carefuls" or "don'ts."

No grown-ups allowed

We're formin' a club,

And the secret oath

Must not be shown.

No grown-ups allowed.

We're goin' out for pizza –

No, no one but me and my crowd.

So just stay away.

Oh, now it's time to pay?

Grown-ups allowed.
– Shel Silverstein,

Falling Up
With Shel Silverstein poems to work with, the Mrs. G bunch had to figure that when they arrived where the sidewalk ends at Capers for Kids, fun was in store. With grown-ups gone, the eight panelists made Mrs. G and Capers owner Boo Capers honorary little people. (No, we didn't make up Boo Capers – it's her real name. Call her Boo.)

In the roomy theater at Capers, a North Dallas creative arts school for kids, they sat on the floor and discussed the man they were honoring in this National Poetry Month celebration. "I always used him in my class at poetry time. You can tell because my Shel Silverstein books are so worn, the pages fall out," Mrs. G said. All agreed hers was the perfect condition for a Shel Silverstein book.

The group couldn't wait to recite their favorites from his three popular books: Where the Sidewalk Ends, Falling Up and A Light in the Attic (HarperCollins, $52.99 for boxed set, ages 9 to 12).

Vishal Gokani, 8, even came with a prop, a TV made from a cardboard box. He couldn't wait to perform "Jimmy Jet and His TV Set." Garland fourth-grader Sarah Israel had been waiting since second grade to interpret "Sick." (She had tried out at school but didn't get the part.)
"I cannot go to school today, said Little Peggy Ann McKay." The 9-year-old belted out the rest of the verse. Then, Mr. Silverstein's vigorous reading of the same piece on CD followed Sarah's. After the poet's outrageous "Sick" ending – "What's that, you say? You say today is ... Saturday? G'bye, I'm going out to play!" – the kids almost couldn't stop laughing.

"He's so good. He left us way too early," said Boo. Mr. Silverstein died of a heart attack in 1999 at age 66. Vishal Gokani: "He has a great sense of humor and his poems always teach a lesson."

Ben Thompson, 11, followed Sarah with his throaty "Captain Hook." Lizzy McClinchie, 11, ran delightfully through "The Garden." Luis Rangel, 8, giggled over "Lazy Jane." ("Reminds me of my dad when he sleeps in," he said.) Second-grader Mason Ponder of Carrollton stretched a bit for "One-Inch Tall," while Rebekah McAnalley, 10, paced herself reading "Melinda Mae" and Eden Williams, 8, deadpanned through "No Grown-ups."

Boo got the gang on stage, making them promise not to "fall up," and turned on the stage lights. "When you interpret or perform poetry strictly for the fun of it, no one is judging you. I like that you can strike a pose from Shel Silverstein's wonderful poems and drawings," Boo told the performers.

Then Mrs. G had them reach into a paper bag and pull out a Shel Silverstein title. They were to act out the selections without dialogue and let the group guess the poem. "That's called pantomime," said Boo.

Working in pairs and with Boo's input on costumes and props, they interpreted favorites, including Eden and Sarah's outstanding "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out."

Mrs. G stole the show with a blankie and stuffed animal, pretending to snuggle in bed sucking her thumb. As she pulled the blanket tightly to her, looking scared and squeezing her furry lamb, the audience blurted the title together: "Afraid of the Dark."

Shel Silverstein would have been proud.

E-mail http://jnjohnson@dallasnews.com.

Capers for Kids

In 1978, Sherry "Boo" Capers started Capers for Kids, a creative arts school and outreach program at 12306 Park Central Drive in Dallas.

During the school year, more than 2,500 students from 20 public and private schools in the Dallas area are enrolled in Creative Drama and Visual Art classes. A summer program also is available. For more information, call 972-661-2787, or visit www.capersforkids.com.

What is Mrs. G's Book Club?

Several times a year, counselor and former reading teacher Angela Glancy, a.k.a. Mrs. G, works with KidsDay and selects a book for the book club. We ask kids to read the book and write a letter about what they think about it, and from those letters we choose a panel to discuss the book with Mrs. G.

What's the next book?

Ella Enchanted (HarperTrophy, $6.50), now a movie, is about a spirited girl under a spell that forces her to follow orders – even stupid ones.

Write a letter telling Mrs. G why you should be part of a book discussion. Send it to Mrs. G's Book Club, P.O. Box 655237, Dallas, TX 75265. Or e-mail jnjohnson@dallasnews .com. Include your name, age, hometown and a phone number. Deadline: April 28. Mason Ponder (right): "My first-grade teacher read me his poems and I got Sidewalk for Christmas."

Luis Rangel: " 'Homework Machine' is one of the best poems I've read."

Lizzy McClinchie (left): "I love to laugh and his poems cheer me up."

Rebekah McAnalley: "I'm a No. 1 fan. Wish we could make him come back to Earth."Ben Thompson: "The Giving Tree is actually my favorite of his works."

Eden Williams (listening to Mrs. G): "When you read 'Grown-ups' you feel silly because you really do need them."

Sarah Israel: "I love him. His humor is dry just like mine."

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