I Can See A Flickerin’ Flutter: For The Love Of “A Light In The Attic”

Of course, saying “there’s a light on in the attic” could easily earn the snarky response “but no one’s home.”

We’re wrapping up National Reading Month with something a bit different, veering away from stories of girls of unusual prococity, wild imagination coupled with impatience, and rational fears (despite her lofty ambitions of being “The Great”), as well as an anthropomorphic female mouse who saves the day with the power of a mother’s conviction.  This week’s stop in National Reading Month ventures into an area that I’ve never generally been a fan of…poetry.  However, this book has been a personal favorite of mine since I was ten years old, and has been the exception for so many years.  There’s no reason I could give you for why, but it has always been special to me, for a reason I’ve never been able to explain.

“Though the House is Dark and Shuttered…”

Image: WikiMediaBy Source, Fair use.

A Light in the Attic is a book of poetry written and animated by Shel Silverstein, released in 1981.  130 poems populate the book, telling stories of Memorizin’ Mo, Clarence Lee from Tennessee, a camel with a bra (who would ever think to put a brassiere on a camel?!), Cinderella, an unscratchable itch, how not to dry the dishes, how to make a swing without any of the necessary means, the adventures of a frisbee, a cure for hiccups, and Deaf Donald, which was how I learned to sign “I Love You.”

Screenshot (138)
“Deaf Donald” Image: archive.org

That last title seems a bit un-PC, using a label and not “people first” language, but considering the year this book came out, there have been advances in addressing the person and not the condition.

Shel Silverstein’s writing was merely a product of its time, but there is nothing more timeless than banned books.  And guess what, it has been banned and criticized.  Because why not?

“Encouraging Messiness and Disobedience”

Screenshot (137)
“Batty” Image: archive.org

Parents claimed that “How Not To Do The Dishes” encouraged messiness and disobedience among children, while the poem “Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony” described the death of a girl whose parents refused to buy her a pony.  Elements of the supernatural, specifically devils, demons, and ghosts were also chief complaints of the contents.  Fruitland Park Elementary School in Lake County, Florida banned the book, but it was later overturned on appeal.

I say it is a harmless book of poetry, and certainly not the worst thing I’ve ever owned.  Why in 1994 alone, I had Boyz II Men and All-4-One cassettes with songs that don’t sugarcoat the sexual undertones.  I got A Light In The Attic pretty much around the same time, and I turned out just fine.

Ahem, I TURNED OUT JUST FINE.  I need to emphasize that.  Normalcy.

Allison’s Experience With That Light In The Attic

Screenshot (136)
Union of Children’s Rights. Image: archive.org

I first read A Light in the Attic in fifth grade, after hearing one of the poems in English class.  I think someone in my class had the book and brought it in, so that was my first exposure to Silverstein’s funny drawings and kiddie prose.  I checked out the book from the library and read it cover to cover.  I had a hard time parting with that book, but I had to return it to the school library.  My mom had heard me talking about the book, saw me reading it, and knew how much I loved it.  This was the same eleven-year-old who never really liked poetry. Books yes, reading yes, but not poetry.

I put the book on my Christmas list that year – I wanted to have that nice collection of eclectic poetry on my bookshelf.  And, well, I got it.  I read it many more times over the years, even when I was too old for Silverstein’s words.  Of course, there was that “cool phase” that started in ninth grade.  And speaking of high school, I was taking a drama class freshman year and had to read a poem with emphasis and stage presence.  When I wasn’t nailing “Casey at the Bat” (which I’d read in ninth grade, and loved!), my teacher asked me if I could bring a different poem the next day.  I told her I had A Light in the Attic at home, and if I could bring it in – I had one particular poem I could read.  My teacher was fine with this, so I read – with emphasis and stage presence – the poem of Clarence Lee, a boy from Tennessee, who bought everything he saw on TV.

Guess who totally nailed that reading?

Emphasis and stage presence, maybe.  But I just love reading this one out loud!

Screenshot (135)
“Clarence” Image: archive.org

I kept my copy of A Light in the Attic until I was in, I believe, the later years of high school.  I passed the book down to a younger cousin who would appreciate the prose as much as I did – she was about the age I was when I first heard the poem of a light in the attic, so it was only appropriate to pass my beloved – and well cared for copy – down the line.  I wonder where that book is now, and if was as appreciated as it was when it was mine.

Five years ago, I was asked to include a favorite book for my sister-in-law’s baby shower, with a message in the book.  I bought a copy of A Light in the Attic for her, and wrote that it was my favorite book of poems.  I hope, one day, it will be hers too. 🙂

Naturally, I would be remiss if I didn’t close this out on a certain personal note, the poem that kick-started the whole book and gave it the appropriate title.

How About You?

Have you read A Light in the Attic, or any of Shel Silverstein’s other books?  What are your favorite poems?  I’d love to hear your experience with that certain light in that certain attic.

National Reading Month comes to a close, but with April rolling around, we’re moving right on to the next theme, which I’ll reveal on Monday night on the blog’s Facebook page at 10 pm EDT.

Have a great day, and for the love of everything, don’t be Mrs. McTwitter, who sits upon the baby!Screenshot (134)



  1. I love the last poem you put at the end on here, the baby sitter! When I was in grade school I thought that was the funniest thing I had ever read. I’m like you, I don’t care for poetry, but I always loved Shel Siverstein. I had this book and “where the sidewalk ends”. I think his greatest book has to be The Giving Tree, while not really a poem, it’s such an amazing book. Thanks for the reminder, I think I might have to bust out one of his books and read through it for old times sake. Great article, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! A few years ago, we were playing the Jackbox game Quiplash, and one of the topics we got was “A Sequel to The Giving Tree.” My response was “The Giving Tree 2: The Tree Taketh Back,” and my friend’s response was “The Giving Tree 2: Takers Are Winners.” We wound up getting split votes because everyone was laughing so hard at both responses. I really should read those other books, they’re on archive.org. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s