Title: A Light in the Attic

Published: 1981

Author: Shel Silverstein

Challenge status: Included on a recent article about classic children’s books that have been banned in America. Book #27 on Summer of Banned Books ’13.

Why:  In 1993, the was challenged in Lake County, Florida because the book allegedly “promotes disrespect, horror, and violence”; the book was subsequently removed from a Fruitland Park library, but then later returned. According to the ALA, the book of poetry anked number 51 of The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000. Generally the objections raised against the book of poetry for kids are related to subject matter: disobeying/disrepecting parents, dying and morbid humor, and the presence of supernatural themes, including demonsdevils, and ghosts.

First line: “There’s a light in the attic / Though the house is dark and shuttered…”

Synopsis:

Over 130 poems and Shel Silverstein’s original artwork throughout. I remember this book fondly along with Ogden Nash, who also wrote clever, tender poems for young readers. In fact I have vague recollections about memorizing the poem “Squishy Touch” for a class project – where the speaker bemoans her King Midas-esque fate of having the power of turning everything she touched into Jell-O.

Most of the poems are outright silly, but, like other children’s books have pointed and wise messages, for example this line from “How Many, How Much”

How much good inside a day? / Depends on how you live ’em.

How much love inside a friend? / Depends on how much you give ’em.

There are times where the humor is morbid. But, one of the things I like about poetry and well-written kids books is that the best authors are not squeamish, and don’t treat children like babies. Children are people on their way to becoming adults, and not everything is pretty princess candy coated; treating them as if they are made of sugar does them no favors. Answering questions they have about the world is much more useful.