A Light in the Attic
|Cover artist||Larry Moyer|
|Publisher||Harper & Row|
A Light in the Attic is a collection of poems by the American poet, writer, and children's author Shel Silverstein. It was first published by Harper & Row in 1981. The poems for children are accompanied by illustrations also created by Shel Silverstein.
Attempts have been made to ban the book from some libraries, parents claiming that the poem "How Not To Have To Dry The Dishes" encourages messiness and disobedience. The poem "Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony" led to more criticism for describing the death of a girl after her parents refuse to buy her a pony. This led the book to be banned by the Fruitland Park Elementary School in Lake County, Florida. The decision, however, was later reversed by an advisory committee of parents and teachers. Other complaints included the mention of supernatural themes, including demons, devils, and ghosts.
- A Light in the Attic: A light shines bright in the attic of an abandoned house, and the narrator reflects on the person "looking out" as he looks inside.
- How Many, How Much - A narrator explains that certain things, like the number of "slams in an old screen door" and the love contained within days, can't be captured in something as simple as numbers.
- Moon-Catchin' Net
- Hammock: A boy has everything he needs to relax—a hammock from his grandmother, and a breeze...if only someone would move the trees closer together.
- How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes: Shel offers some advice as to how to get out of drying dishes—namely, deliberately dropping one on the floor.
- Stop Thief! – When a crook steals a man's knees, he must call the police for help, as he can't pursue the thief himself.
- The Sitter - Mrs. McTwitter doesn't know much about baby-sitting, as she takes the "sitting" part of the job extremely literally.
- Prayer of the Selfish Child - A child recites "Now I lay me down to sleep" before bed, but changes the last few lines, asking God to break all of his toys in the event of his death.
- What Did? – What some objects say to other objects.
- Shaking – A girl tries to make a milkshake by shaking a cow.
- Picture Puzzle Piece
- Put Something In - Shel encourages children to "put some crazy in the world," be it a poem, dance, song, or story.
- Monsters I've Met- Shel talks about his encounters with creatures including a ghoul, a witch, and a devil—but unfortunately, the monsters never want anything besides small favors and advice.
- Rock 'n' Roll Band – A few children wonder what it would be like to be a rock band.
- Something Missing – A man gets dressed, not realizing he forgot his pants.
- Memorizin' Mo
- Somebody Has to
- Fancy Dive - A girl named Marissa attempts the most elaborate, complicated dive in the history of the world—but it's only after she has begun her routine that she realizes that she is jumping into an empty pool!
- Here Comes - Shel talks about the coming season of summer, and how quickly it flies by.
- The Dragon of Grindly Grun - The Dragon of Grindly Grun lives a quiet life as he breathes fire, burns knights to a crisp, and captures beautiful maidens. There's only one problem: he prefers his damsels medium well..."but they always come out well done!"
- Messy Room
- Day After Halloween – Someone tries to sell monster heads the day right after Halloween.
- Wavy Hair – A man believes that he has wavy hair, but when he shaves it off, he discovers that his hair was actually straight—it's his head that is wavy!
- Longmobile - An enormously lengthy car is the perfect mode of transportation—once you get inside, it is already where you need to be!
- Backward Bill – A story about a cowboy who does everything backwards.
- Mr. Smeds and Mr. Spats
- Snake Problem - A boy runs into an issue when he meets a ten-foot python that twists itself into a frightening shape: the words "I love you!"
- Bear in There
- The Pirate
- Hurk - A child says that he'd rather play games than do things he's supposed to do.
- Anchored - When some children prepare to go on a sailing expedition in a homemade boat, they realize that their enormous anchor might end the trip earlier than originally anticipated.
- Unscratchable Itch - A man complains of having an itch right in the center of his back—the one place that he cannot reach.
- Squishy Touch –- A girl has a problem: Whatever she touches turns to raspberry Jell-O.
- Important?-- A lowercase 'a' insists that he is necessary for earth and heaven to exist, but a wise capital 'G' points out that they would go on even without the little letter.
- Thumb Face – A man suffers having a face on his thumb that thinks everything the man does is funny.
- Homework Machine – A girl tries to use a machine to do her homework, but the answers come out wrong—mainly because the boy inside trying to answer the questions doesn't know how to perform addition.
- Eight Balloons
- Musical Career – A girl has trouble when trying to play the piano.
- Anteater – Someone buys an anteater who eats their aunt.
- Buckin' Bronco
- Snap! – A girl gets caught in an umbrella.
- Wild Strawberries
- How to Make a Swing With No Rope or Board or Nails
- Gumeye Ball - An eyeball sits in the middle of a gumball machine, which Shel takes as a sign: he's had too much gum.
- Hot Dog
- Adventures of a Frisbee - A Frisbee, tired of being used as a toy, travels the world trying out different jobs, including being a dinner plate and a truck wheel. He eventually decides that he likes his old life best of all, and returns to it.
- Come Skating - Miscommunication makes a skating trip less than fun when a child brings roller skates to a frozen pond.
- The Meehoo with an Exactlywatt – Two creatures—a Meehoo and an Exactlywatt—approach someone's door. Their strange names cause problems reminiscent of "Who's on First?"
- Cloony the Clown – A clown tries to be funny, but he isn't funny enough. He eventually shares his sad story with a circus crowd...but they laugh uproariously at his misfortune, prompting Cloony to cry.
- Tryin' On Clothes – A child struggles to put on other people's clothes.
- My Guitar
- Spelling Bee
- Always Sprinkle Pepper – A child puts pepper in her hair to be safe from an evil witch.
- Peckin' - Shel reflects on the "saddest sight he ever did see"—namely, a woodpecker reduced to pecking away at a plastic tree.
- It's Hot! - A woman tries to keep herself cool on a hot day.
- Crowded Tub - An tub overflowing with people causes numerous problems.
- Channels - All of the channels on television are showing ridiculous programs. Shel suggests a better idea for children: talking.
- Hippo's Hope - A hippopotamus builds himself a pair of wings, and prepares to jump off a cliff to test them. Shel offers three endings to the poem: one where the hippo successfully flies, one where he crashes to the ground, and one where he decides against flying and goes home.
- Whatif – A child talks about a bad case of 'Whatifs'--bothersome thoughts about the future.
- Sour Face Ann – Pleasing the grouchy Sour Face Ann is impossible—she finally has a fur coat, but now it is attracting fleas.
- The Climbers - A group of mountain explorers takes on a mysterious peak that no one has ever climbed. One of them senses that the mountain is moving and snoring, and the illustration of the poem proves him correct: the "peaks" are actually the face of a giant!
- Rockabye - Shel recites "Rock-a-bye Baby", but points out that putting a child in a basket on a treetop seems extremely unsafe.
- The Little Boy and the Old Man - A child talks about mistakes he makes, including wetting his pants and dropping his spoon, and an elderly man tells him that he often does the same things. When the boy confesses his last secret—that grown-ups rarely pay attention to him—the old man quietly assures him: "I know what you mean."
- Surprise! - A child talks about his globetrotting grandfather, who always sends his grandchildren pets from the exotic places he visits. One such pet has just arrived from India—and given the enormous box with a trunk-like structure on the front, it is not difficult to guess at Grandpa's latest surprise.
- Ticklish Tom – A boy rolls around when someone or something tickles him. He meets a bad end when he rolls onto the train tracks.
- The Nailbiter
- The Fly Is In
- Strange Wind - A strong and very odd wind blows through town: instead of blowing the hat off a man's head, it blows the head from under the hat!
- One Two - Shel tries to recite "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe". Unfortunately, a nearby listener takes offensive to every line, and argues with him over all of the tasks in the poem.
- Tusk, Tusk
- Captain Blackbeard Did What?
- Magic Carpet
- Outside or Underneath?
- It's All the Same to the Clam
- Hula Eel - Shel teaches a friend how to use an eel as a hula hoop—but the eel causes problems when it doesn't stop winding around the person trying to play with it!
- Standing Is Stupid
- Who Ordered the Broiled Face? - A waiter delivers a broiled face to a hungry customer, but the dish starts talking back when the customer requests that the face be fried!
- The Man in the Iron Pail Mask
- Gooloo - A bird with no feet hopes that the eggs that she lays land safely onto the ground.
- Headache - A man suffers having a tree grow out of his head.
- Quick Trip - A group of children are eaten by the "Quick-Digesting Gink"—but there's little danger, as they are back "out on the street" within seconds after being swallowed.
- Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony – When Abigail sees a beautiful pony for sale on a farm, she begs for her parents to buy it for her. When they refuse, she threatens that she'll die without the pony. They ignore her threat...until it comes true!
- Hiccup Cure - Shel gives the reader some advice to cure hiccups that is more than impossible to do.
- The Painter
- Zebra Question - A child asks a zebra if he is white with black stripes, or black with white stripes. The zebra responds with more questions about the child: is he "good with bad tendencies, or bad with good tendencies?"
- The Sword-Swallower
- The Toad and the Kangaroo - A toad and a kangaroo plan to marry, as their child will be the best jumper in the whole world. But when they cannot agree on a name for their offspring, the resulting fight breaks them apart.
- Play Ball - A group of children prepares to play a game of baseball. The smallest of the bunch must play the most important position of them all—namely, the ball!
- Poemsicle - Shel has fun making silly rhymes by adding the suffix "-sicle" to various words—but soon, he can't stop himself from placing it on everything he says!
- Hinges - Shel considers how life might easier if everyone had "hinges on their heads," as it would allow people to quickly remove their bad impulses and "keep the good stuff in."
- Fear – A boy is terrified of drowning, and seals himself in his room, sobbing. The combination of the locked doors and his endless tears eventually drowns him!
- Batty - A baby bat begs for someone to "turn on the dark," as he is "afraid of the light."
- Union for Children's Rights
- Deaf Donald
- Have Fun – A girl swims in a lake with no sharks, not realizing there's an octopus in there.
- Dog's Day - A dog reflects on the low quality of his birthday celebration—his owners have simply placed a candle in his dog dish, rather than offering him a steak.
- Skin Stealer - A creature called a Coo-Coo steals a man's skin while he's sleeping.
- Ladies First – Pamela Purse uses the concept of "ladies first" to rudely interrupt others and take whatever she wants. Her bad habit gets her in trouble when she and her friends are on a jungle expedition and end up in the clutches of Fry-'Em-Up Dan, a cannibal king who is trying to decide who to cook!
- Frozen Dream
- The Lost Cat - When the cat goes missing, nobody can guess where to find her—but a "walking hat" (with a cat-shaped lump underneath) might know.
- God's Wheel - God offers a child the chance to take His place for a time and "steer the world." But when the child asks God countless questions about the job, He realizes that the boy isn't quite ready for the task.
- Shadow Race
- Clarence – Clarence Lee can't resist buying everything he sees on television commercials. He eventually makes the grandest purchase of all: a new set of parents! Shel ends the poem by explaining that mothers and fathers who force children to do chores and eat vegetables are "simply wearing out," and encourages readers to send away for some new grown-ups themselves.
- Rhino Pen - When a child's pen runs out of ink, there's only one thing to do—use the horn of a live rhinoceros to finish his school assignments.
- Push Button
- Kidnapped! – A child makes up a story about being kidnapped as an excuse for being late to school.
- Dinner Guest
- In Search of Cinderella
- Almost Perfect
- Pie Problem - A child faces a dilemma: another piece of pie will certainly kill him, but he'll die if he can't have it. He decides that, since his death is inevitable, he might as well enjoy the pie rather than go without.
- The Oak and the Rose
- They've Put a Brassiere on the Camel
- This Bridge
Awards and nominations
Winner of the 1984 William Allen White Children's Book Award.
Peppermints in the Parlor
|Winner of the
William Allen White Children's Book Award
The Land I Lost