“A Light in the Attic” is one of Shel Silverstein’s best yet most controversial books of poems ever written. This book is full of poems about clowns, pirates, monsters and all manner of strange people and animals doing crazy things. “A Light in the Attic” may be too suggestive and morbid for smaller children, but older children will easily delight themselves with the silly shenanigans of the characters.
This book of poems is about people and animals doing strange activities and has about 135 poems in total, but I will only recite seven of my favorite poems.
1) How not to have to dry the dishes
“If you have to dry the dishes
(Such an awful, boring chore)
If you have to dry the dishes
(Instead of going to the store)
If you have to dry the dishes
And you drop one on the floor—
Maybe they won’t let you
Dry the dishes anymore.”
2) The Sitter
“Mrs. McTwitter the babysitter,
I think she’s a little bit crazy.
She thinks a baby-sitter’s supposed
To sit upon the baby.”
3) Squishy Touch
"Everything King Midas touched
Turned to gold, the lucky fellow.
Every single thing I touch
Turns to raspberry Jell-O.
Today I touched the kitchen wall (squish)
I went and punched my brother Paul (splish).
I tried to fix my bike last week (splossh),
And kissed my mother on the cheek (gloosh).
I got into my overshoes (sklush),
I tried to read the Evening News (smush),
I sat down in the easy chair (splush),
I tried to comb my wavy hair (slush).
I took a dive into the sea (glush)—
Would you like to shake hands with me (sklush)?”
‘“A genuine anteater.”
The pet man told my dad.
Turned out, it was an aunt eater,
And now my uncle’s mad!”
5) Quick Trip
“We’ve been caught by the quick-digesting Gink,
And now we are dodgin’ his teeth…
And now we are restin’ in his intestine,
And now we’re back out on the street.”
6) Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony
This poem is longer than the rest of the poems, so I will just summarize briefly about what the poem is about.
There was a girl named Abigail who saw a pony for sale in the countryside and she begged her parents for them to get her the pony. But, her parents refused to give Abigail a pony, so Abigail told her parents that if she does not get a pony, then she will die. Of course, her parents do not believe her and Abigail and her parents head off straight home. Well, when Abigail got home, she became so ill that she could not eat anything and therefore she dies, with her parents being sorry that they did not get her the pony she wanted.
7) Ladies First
This is another long poem, so I will just summarize it.
Pamela Purse always yelled out “Ladies first” whenever she wanted to get in the front of the ice cream line or tried to get in front of the other kids when they were going on the bus. One day, however, the class goes on a jungle trip and they are captured by a savage band of cannibals and when the King of the Land, Fry-‘Em-Up Dan tries to decide which child to eat first, Pamela Purse yells out:
Shel Silverstein’s writing is as witty as it is funny as he writes each character’s stories in a poetic prose. One of the funniest poems I have read was “Squishy Touch” when the main character turns everything into Jell-O. Shel Silverstein’s illustrations are highly creative as the images make the characters look scratchy and also I love the images being presented in black and white colors, a technique that is usually used for long books. The image that probably stood out the most was the image of the Gink as it has a large mouth with sharp teeth and the image of the kids coming out of the Gink on the next page.
Parents should know that there are some suggestive and morbid content in this book that young children might not understand. One poem that might be too suggestive for children would be the poem “How not to have to dry the dishes” as it entices children to break the dishes in order not to dry them. Another poem that might be too morbid for children would be “Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony” as it deals with the death of a child and parents might want to explain to their children about the concept of death before they read this poem.
“A Light in the Attic” is an excellent book about silly poems about silly people who do crazy stunts and it will surely be an instant for many children young and old. I would recommend this book to children ages six and up since smaller children might be a bit disturbed by the suggestive and morbid content displayed in this book.
If you enjoyed Shel Silverstein’s books, then I would suggest:
The Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends
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