Book Jacket Synopsis: “Last night while I lay thinking here, Some Whatifs crawled inside my ear, And pranced and partied all night long, And sang their same old Whatif song: Whatif I flunk that test? Whatif green hair grows on my chest? Whatif nobody likes me? Whatif a bolt of lightening strikes me? Here in the attic of Shel Silverstein you will find Backward Bill, Sour Face Ann, the Meehoo with an Exactlywhat, and the Polar Bear in the Frigidaire. You will talk with the Broiled Face, and find out what happens when Somebody steals your knees, you get caught by the Quick-Digesting Gink, a Mountain snores, and They Put a Brassiere on a Camel. From the creator of the classic Where the Sidewalk Ends, here is a wondrous new collection of poems and drawings.”
Review: In my opinion, Shel Silverstein can do no wrong. His poems are just too fun. I also think that many kids hold an early aversion to poetry, and that his illustrated books do an excellent job of showing those kids that poems can be silly, imaginative, and expressive. His poetry collections certainly had that effect on me; I remember writing my own poem (entitled “Why Am I Asking Why?”) in elementary school that took direct inspiration from Silverstein’s “Whatif” poem. And while my young work almost certainly broke some sort of intellectual property/plagiarism barrier, it was the first time that I actually had fun writing poetry for a school assignment. All of his illustrated poetry collections (A Light in the Attic, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Falling Up) give me a whimsical sense of childhood nostalgia. More than that, they are actually even more fun to read as an adult because I have a better understanding of innuendos and puns than I did when I first read his books.
“How many slams in an old screen door? Depends how loud you shut it.
How many slices in a bread? Depends how thin you cut it.
How much good inside a day? Depends how good you live ’em.
How much love inside a friend? Depends how much you give ’em.”
Reason for Ban/Challenge: Attempts have been made to ban A Light in the Attic because some believe that it encourages disobedience (particularly the poem entitled “How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes”), mentions supernatural themes (demons, devils, and ghosts), and describes death (as in “Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony,” where Abigail promptly dies after her parents refuse to buy her a pony). However, I would argue that Silverstein’s lighthearted way of addressing weird, funny, sad, and scary issues likely helps children face their own issues with a little more optimism and humor. Altogether, there is nothing sinister about this poetry collection; on the contrary, it is good-humored and wholesome.