Shel Silverstein's 'Runny Babbit' Tales

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
'Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook' by Shel Silverstein
Shel Silverstein died in 1999.

Shel Silverstein died in 1999. Larry Moyer hide caption

toggle caption Larry Moyer

Poems from the Book

© 2005 Evil Eye, LLC. Used by permission of Evil Eye, LLC and HarperCollins Publishers.

Consider the many worlds of the late writer and illustrator Shel Silverstein. He was friends with Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and with Nashville songwriters, such as Kris Kristofferson.

Hear Silverstein's Works

Listen to selections from 'The Best of Shel Silverstein' (Sony BMG).

"Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out" - Shel Silverstein (1971)

"Cover of the Rolling Stone" - Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show (1972)

Listen: Windows Media

Listen: Real

"Boa Constrictor" - Shel Silverstein (1971)

Listen: Windows Media

Listen: Real

Listen: Windows Media

Listen: Real

Silverstein's children's books — including The Giving Tree, A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends — have sold in the tens of millions.

He also wrote quirky hit songs in the 1960s and 70s, including "Cover of the Rolling Stone," performed by Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show, and "A Boy Named Sue," immortalized by Johnny Cash on his live album At San Quentin.

Now, six years after Silverstein's death, there's a new CD with some of his best-known poems and songs. And there's a book, Runny Babbit, a collection of previously unpublished poems made up of spoonerisms, where the first parts of words are transposed. ("Runny's Jig Bump," for example, begins: Runny be quimble, Runny be nick, Runny cump over the jandlestick.)

Mitch Myers, Shel Silverstein's nephew, wrote the liner notes for the new CD and helped compile the new collection of poems.

"There were hundreds of great poems and illustrations to choose from," he says. Myers says Silverstein was ambivalent about the project, which he had been working on "forever."

"I think he wasn't sure about how it would be received," Myers says. "It is and was very different. And it's not easy, even for adults to read. I think, actually, younger children have a better time at it because they're not so preconceived in their notions of how words work. And the playfulness of it really comes across."

Books Featured In This Story

Runny Babbit

A Billy Sook

by Shel Silverstein

Hardcover, 89 pages |


Purchase Featured Book

Runny Babbit
A Billy Sook
Shel Silverstein

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

Purchase Featured Music

The Best of Shel Silverstein (CD)

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

The Best of Shel Silverstein (CD)
Shel Silverstein

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?




Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from