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Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book (A primer for tender young minds) Paperback – 1961

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Paperback, 1961
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Simon and Schuster; 6th printing edition (1961)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000Q3PF5G
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,377,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

"And now, children, your Uncle Shelby is going to tell you a story about a very strange lion- in fact, the strangest lion I have ever met." So begins Shel Silverstein's very first children's book, Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back. It's funny and sad and has made readers laugh and think since it was published in 1963. It was followed the next year by three more books. The first of them, The Giving Tree, is a moving story about the love of a tree for a boy. Shel returned to humor the same year with A Giraffe and a Half, delighting readers with a most riotous ending. The third book in 1964 was Uncle Shelby's Zoo Don't Bump the Glump! and Other Fantasies, Shel's first poetry collection, and his first and only book illustrated in full color. It combined his unique imagination and bold brand of humor in this collection of silly and scary creatures. Shel's second collection of poems and drawings, Where the Sidewalk Ends, was published in 1974. His recording of the poems won him a Grammy for best Children's Album. In this collection, Shel invited children to dream and dare to imagine the impossible, from a hippopotamus sandwich to the longest nose in the world. With his next collection of poems and drawings, A Light in the Attic, published in 1981, Shel asked his readers to turn the light on in their attics, to put something silly in the world, and not to be discouraged by the Whatifs. Instead he urged readers to catch the moon or invite a dinosaur to dinner- to have fun! A Light in the Attic was the first children's book to break onto the New York Times Bestseller List, where it stayed for a record-breaking 182 weeks. The last book that was published before his death in 1999 was Falling Up (1996). Like his other books, it is filled with unforgettable characters. Shel Silverstein's legacy continued with the release of a new work,Runny Babbit, the first posthumous publication conceived and completed before his death and released in March 2005. Witty and wondrous, Runny Babbit is a poetry collection of simple spoonerismsH, which twist the tongue and tease the mind. Don't Bump the Glump! And Other Fantasies was recently reissued in 2008 after being unavailable for over 30 years. Shel was always a believer in letting his work do the talking for him--few authors have ever done it better.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 96 people found the following review helpful By Catherine S. Vodrey on August 23, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have always thought of Shel Silverstein as the American counterpart to England's Roald Dahl--someone who writes ostensibly for children much of the time, but whose worldview is dark, perhaps a little damp, and steeped in a winking cynicism. Silverstein proves my point adeptly in the 1961 classic "Uncle Shelby's ABZ," a loopy uproar of a book that should never, NEVER be given to young children. You will, however, want to get a copy for every adult you're fond of who doesn't already own a copy.
As Silverstein explains in the foreword (done here, as throughout the book, in his own handwriting), he has thought and thought about children and as he wasn't blessed with children of his own, he has come up with this "primer" for all children. The book opens with a wee poem:
O child learn your ABZ's
And memorize them well
And you shall learn to talk and think
And read and write and spel.
That ought to give you an idea of what's to come. Silverstein meticulously addresses every letter in the alphabet, descending further and further as he does into a swirling pit of black humor. He starts off, of course, with "A," writing with great jollity about how many green apples he thinks the reader can eat (everything is addressed directly TO the reader, as though the reader is a child, making the text all the more seductive). "E" is a hoot:
E is for egg.
See the egg.
The egg is full of slimey goosey white stuff and icky yellow stuff.
Do you like to eat eggs?
E is also for Ernie.
Ernie is the genie who lives in the ceiling.
Ernie loves eggs.
Take a nice fresh egg and throw it as high as you can and yell "Catch, Ernie! Catch the egg!"
And Ernie will reach down and catch the egg.
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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful By John S. Ryan on January 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
You surely don't need me to introduce you to the late Sheldon Allan Silverstein. Even if you're not aware that he wrote the lyrics to e.g. 'A Boy Named Sue' and 'Cover of the Rolling Stone', you've undoubtedly at least heard of _The Giving Tree_ and _Where the Sidewalk Ends_ and _A Light in the Attic_ and _Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back_ and _The Missing Piece_ and . . .

You probably don't need me to introduce you to this wickedly hilarious and subversive book, either. It's one of the most side-splitting things Silverstein ever wrote, and if you know who he was, you've probably heard of it. It's brilliant, and it's guaranteed -- maybe even deliberately designed -- to annoy the sort of person who says 'I have a sense of humor, but'. (Which always, _always_ translates to 'I don't have a sense of humor'. You can take that to the bank.)

But if you don't yet have your own copy, you might be put off by the fact that the new edition's title says it's for 'adults only'. That's misleading; in fact it's almost exactly the reverse of the truth. There's no 'adult material' in the entire book -- just some stuff that might be a little risky for kids too young or unsophisticated to understand the jokes.

But the jokes are most definitely for kids -- even really tall, forty-plus ones like me. Do you know any 'adults' who would be amused at the sly hint that you should give Daddy a haircut while he naps because, having spent all his money on toys and oatmeal for _you_, 'poor poor poor poor Daddy' can't afford to go to a barber? Or who would laugh uncontrollably at the suggestion that if you tell the kidnapper your daddy has a lot of money, maybe he'll let you ride in his really keen fast car?

'Adults only', my tochis.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
Now I know why I've loved Uncle Shelby's poetry all these years - I stumbled upon this book a few years ago and just love rereading it over and over. It never fails to make me laugh. I share it with everyone I know. Great book for parents and babysitters - we can fully appreciate the jokes as we've been there. Would kids like it? Maybe, maybe not. But I think that adults are the ones who fully get it. It's kind of like the way I feel about Tom and Jerry the cartoon. I loved it as a kid, but find it so much funnier as an adult. (not that ABZ book is similar to the cartoon, just the age thing).
If you love humor, you will love this book. Uncle Shelby is not gentle in this book. Instead, he has a wicked sense of humor. Very refreshing, very entertaining.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By "doug_llewelyn" on December 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
I absolutely love this book. My older copy is subtitled "a primer for tender young minds," but the "adults only" in the new edition is probably a good idea. You know your own kids best and can decide if they can handle it, but give this book to someone else's kids at risk of alienating their parents forever (though maybe that isn't a bad thing if they don't have a sense of humor). This is not one of his poetry books, but lists each letter and what it stands for. Silverstein's unique sense of humor is evident. He advises children to give Daddy a haircut while he is sleeping and to hide his keys, and these are some of the tamer examples. Of course the alphabet is too restricting, and Silverstein breaks off periodically to have a little more fun. I don't want to reveal too much, so suffice it to say that this book is hilarious. This isn't as engaging as Silverstein's poetic works, which would be a better choice for a newcomer to his writings. But if you are a fan and would welcome something different, this is a delightful choice.
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