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A Light in the Attic facts for kids

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A Light in the Attic
A Light in the Attic cover.jpg
Author Shel Silverstein
Illustrator Shel Silverstein
Cover artist Larry Moyer
Country United States
Language English
Genre Children's poetry
Publisher Harper & Row
Publication date
Pages 169
ISBN 0-06-025673-7
OCLC 7574216

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.


  1. A Light in the Attic - A light is on in the attic of a house, and Shel says the reader is looking out the window.
  2. How Many, How Much - Shel's attempts at estimating unusual things (ex. door slamming, sliced bread, etc.).
  3. Moon-Catchin' Net- A girl tries to catch the moon, but gets a star instead.
  4. Hammock - A boy tries to set up a hammock, but the trees are too far apart.
  5. How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes - Shel tells someone how to get out of having to dry dishes.
  6. Stop Thief! - A man goes to a policeman for help when his knees are stolen, and is immobilized as a result.
  7. The Sitter - The delusional Mrs. McTwitter thinks that babysitting means literally sitting on a baby.
  8. Prayer of the Selfish Child - A selfish boy says his version of the "Now I Lay me Down to Sleep" prayer.
  9. What Did? - Shel tells two different jokes of his own, but soon stops after he gets to a teapot and a piece of chalk, stating "Teapots can't talk!".
  10. Shaking - Young Geraldine is scolded for shaking a cow to try and make a milkshake.
  11. Signals - Shel tells the readers what different signals mean on a traffic light, but soon asks about a ridiculous color.
  12. Picture Puzzle Piece - A single puzzle piece lies in the rain as Shel explains what else it could be.
  13. Put Something In - Shel encourages the readers to try silly things no one else has done before.
  14. Monsters I've Met - A man meets several monsters, but they are not there to do their usual businesses.
  15. Rock 'n' Roll Band - Seven children imagine what it would be like if they were a rock 'n roll band, but reality soon hits.
  16. Something Missing - A man gets ready for a dance, but feels he forgot something (his pants) .
  17. Memorizin' Mo - A boy named Mo studies all the words in a dictionary, but no one seems to want to hire or marry him as a result.
  18. Somebody Has to - A child is told to polish the stars, as the birds complain of how dirty they are.
  19. Reflection - A boy wading in a pool stares at his reflection, and wonders if he is upside-down in its own world.
  20. Fancy Dive - The fanciest dive ever performed is spoken of; it was performed by a woman named Melissa, who dove off of a diving board, and performed several impressive tricks, but soon realized the pool was empty.
  21. Here Comes - Shel heralds the return of summer, but spends so much time doing so that it soon becomes autumn.
  22. The Dragon of Grindly Grun - A dragon tells how he breathes fire on any knight who tries to slay him, but unintentionally burns beautiful maidens too.
  23. Blame - Shel writes a book, but a goat takes a bite out of it, and requests not to be blamed for the replacement book that he claims isn't as good as the one eaten by the goat.
  24. Messy Room - Shel complains about a very messy bedroom, but soon realizes it is his.
  25. Never - Shel talks about things has never done, only to get depressed by the thought.
  26. Day After Halloween - A girl tries to sell Halloween goods on the day after, but is having no luck.
  27. Wavy Hair - A man thinks he has wavy hair, only to find it was his head that was wavy.
  28. Longmobile - Shel describes a car that is so long, it gets people to their destinations in no time at all.
  29. Backward Bill - Shel describes a man who does everything the opposite way.
  30. Mr. Smeds and Mr. Spats - Mr. Spats, a man who wears 21 hats on his head, buys another one from Mr. Smeds, a man with 21 heads.
  31. Snake Problem - A boy asks the readers what to do when a snake spells "I love you" in its coils.
  32. Bear in There - A polar bear sits in a refrigerator because he enjoys how cold it is.
  33. Superstitious - Shel describes every possible thing a superstitious person might do, and says he isn't.
  34. The Pirate - Shel talks about a nasty pirate named Claude, and asks to sit next to him for dinner.
  35. Hurk - Shel says he'd rather play sports than visit the dentist or doctor, and claims he'd partake in something called "hurk" rather than going to work, but soon wonders what it is himself, deducing it must be better than work.
  36. Anchored - Some in a boat are stuck because their anchor is too big, and they can't bring it onboard, as the weight will make them sink.
  37. Unscratchable Itch - Shel describes the problem of trying to scratch a spot between one's shoulders.
  38. Squishy Touch - A girl talks about how everything she touches turns to raspberry gelatin.
  39. Important? - A lowercase a boasts about how certain things wouldn't exist without it to a capital G, but the big letter argues otherwise.
  40. Thumb Face - Shel talks about a face on his thumb that mocks him for everything he tries to do.
  41. Eight Balloons - Eight balloons go off on their own and the first seven get popped, while the eighth just deflates.
  42. Ations - Shel plays with words that end in "-ation".
  43. Musical Career - A little girl tries to play a piano, but her fingers are too short for the keys, and her legs are too short for the pedals. By the time she is tall enough for both, she decides she longer wants to play anymore.
  44. Anteater - Shel buys an anteater from a pet store, but it eats his "aunt" instead, angering his uncle.
  45. Buckin' Bronco - A man is challenged to tame a wild horse, but gets bucked off.
  46. Snap! - A woman opens her umbrella in case of rain, but soon gets stuck in it.
  47. Overdues - An old man is in a quandary over whether to return a library book that is 42 years past its return date, as he cannot afford the overdue fine (library fines are $0.25/day, so he would have to pay up to $3,832.50).
  48. Wild Strawberries - Shel hears about wild strawberries, and begins to contemplate what they might act like.
  49. How to Make a Swing With No Rope or Board or Nails - Shel tells the readers how to build a swing without using any of the usual materials.
  50. Gumeye Ball - Shel comes across an eyeball staring at him from a gumball machine, and soon decides he's had enough for one day.
  51. Hot Dog - A boy has a hot dog for a pet, because his parents won't let him have an actual dog.
  52. Adventures of a Frisbee - A frisbee sails off and tries to be various things, but after several misfires, goes home to be itself again.
  53. Come Skating - A girl is invited to come ice skating, but wears roller skates instead and ends up falling through the ice.
  54. The Meehoo with an Exactlywatt - In an Abbott and Costello-like exchange, a "Meehoo" tries to sell an "Exactlywatt" to someone, but eventually gets told off.
  55. Cloony the Clown - Shel tells the story of a mediocre circus clown who one day decides to employ gloomier tactics, only to end up being unintentionally funny.
  56. Tryin' On Clothes - A girl tries on different clothes, but doesn't like how they fit, so she decides to strip bare.
  57. Shapes - A square is impaled by a triangle, but a circle wheels him to a hospital.
  58. Tired - A man has been doing so many things that he feels exhausted.
  59. Prehistoric - Shel's explanation of evolution.
  60. My Guitar - Shel expresses his desire for a guitar that plays itself.
  61. Spelling Bee - A bee stings a message in a man's behind.
  62. Always Sprinkle Pepper - Shel advises children to sprinkle pepper in their hair in case they ever get kidnapped and sold to a witch for her dinner.
  63. Peckin' - Shel finds a woodpecker pecking on a fake tree, and it tells him how things have changed.
  64. It's Hot! - A man complains of a heat wave, and tries everything from stripping down to even his bones, but nothing works.
  65. Turtle - Shel talks about a turtle who does not move (it turns out to be made of wood).
  66. Crowded Tub - Shel is crammed in a bathtub full of people and is sure he washed someone else's rear end.
  67. Channels - Shel talks to a child about different channels on TV, but in the end, asks if he/she would like to talk instead.
  68. Hippo's Hope - A hippo makes wings, hoping to fly. This poem has three endings: he either succeeds, falls and dies, or just gives up and goes home (the first two can be interpreted as expectations and reality, and the third, what he ultimately decides to do).
  69. Whatif - Shel has a nightmare where some "whatifs" crawl into his ear, and makes him worry about things, some more ridiculous than others.
  70. Sour Face Ann - Shel talks about a melancholy woman named Ann who first complained of not having a fur coat, but now does so of having fleas.
  71. The Climbers - A man thinks he is climbing a mountain, but is actually walking across the face of a sleeping giant.
  72. Rockabye - Shel's version of Rock-a-Bye Baby.
  73. The Little Boy and the Old Man - A boy talks to his grandfather about all the things he does, and the old man says he does them too.
  74. Surprise! - Two children talk about their grandfather, who sends them a souvenir pet from everywhere he goes, the latest one coming from India (and judging from the illustration, is now an elephant).
  75. Ticklish Tom - An extremely ticklish boy is tickled by other people, until he rolls onto a railroad track. The poem ends there, so we never find out what happened to him, although it is stated that "Tom ain't ticklish anymore".
  76. The Nailbiter - A man talks about his nail-biting habit, but assures the readers he has never scratched anyone.
  77. The Fly Is In - Shel describes various things that are in, on, under or bothering each other.
  78. Strange Wind - A man is caught in a fierce gale that blows away his head instead of his hat.
  79. One Two - Shel tries to recite "One-Two, buckle my shoe", but is interrupted by an off-screen voice.
  80. Tusk, Tusk - A walrus gets braces fitted on his tusks, but they get in the way of his meals.
  81. Captain Blackbeard Did What? - Captain Blackbeard's crew is an uproar because he has shaved off his beard, and he is not the pirate he was.
  82. Magic Carpet - Shel describes a magic carpet that can take the reader anywhere, but soon asks if they will just leave it on their floor and buy some matching drapes.
  83. Outside or Underneath? - Three men buy different pieces of clothing, but don't care about what they're wearing on the outside or inside.
  84. It's All the Same to the Clam - Shel explains that while the world may change, a clam doesn't see it that way.
  85. Hula Eel - Shel explains how much fun an eel can be as a pet...until it ends up constricting the person he's talking to.
  86. Bored - A boy complains that he can't afford any kind of board except a useless plank of wood.
  87. Standing Is Stupid - Shel complains about different ways to move, and decides to go lie in bed.
  88. Who Ordered the Broiled Face? - A broiled disembodied face is served to someone, but is confused when they wanted it fried instead.
  89. The Man in the Iron Pail Mask - Shel describes someone who is fearless and wears an iron pail as a mask, but it is really a little child.
  90. Gooloo - Shel describes a legless bird who is forced to fly forever, and cannot land to rest or lay eggs.
  91. Headache - A man complains about a tree growing out of his head, but is better in spring when it grows leaves.
  92. Quick Trip - Some kids get eaten by a monster that spits them back out on the street in no time at all (this poem is four pages long).
  93. Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony - Shel tells a cautionary tale about a spoiled girl who asks her parents to buy her a pony, but they refuse, and her obsession with it kills her.
  94. Hiccup Cure - Shel tries to cure a person's hiccups, but it doesn't work.
  95. The Painter - A man describes his job, which is giving animals their distinctive colors.
  96. Nobody - A boy has an imaginary friend who supposedly treats him well, but one day wakes up to find "Nobody" has disappeared.
  97. Zebra Question - A boy asks a zebra a question, but he counters with some ridiculous questions of his own.
  98. The Sword-Swallower - Shel tells about a sword-swallower named Salomar, but is soon so disgusted by it that he decides to have bread and jam instead.
  99. Arrows - A boy shoots an arrow in the air, but after killing a cloud, soon swears off archery.
  100. The Toad and the Kangaroo - A toad falls in love with a kangaroo, but they split up over what to name their baby if they had one.
  101. Play Ball - Shel gets together some people for a baseball team, but soon decides to use the reader for a ball when all the positions are filled.
  102. Friendship - Shel tells the readers how to be friends with him: to do what he tells them.
  103. Poemsicle - Shel adds "-sicle" to various words, but soon ends up adding it to every word he says.
  104. Senses - The five senses are all together, but when an ear comes in to listen what the mouth is saying, it stops talking.
  105. Hinges - Shel explains sin would not exist if people's heads had hinges for removing it.
  106. Fear - A boy who is afraid of drowning eventually does so when his fearful tears fill up his bedroom.
  107. Twistable Turnable Man - Shel describes a little man who can be folded up and curled to fit anywhere.
  108. Batty - A bat yells for someone to turn out the light.
  109. Union for Children's Rights - Some children get together to protest the unfairness of the world - demanding such things as higher allowances, no more Brussels sprouts, and seventeen summer vacations per year.
  110. Hitting - Shel rhymes about certain things to hit animals with, but tells the readers to use a feather on him.
  111. Deaf Donald - A deaf boy meets a girl but can only sign "I love you".
  112. Have Fun - Shel assures the readers that swimming in a park is safe, as there are no sharks, but neglects to mention it has an octopus instead.
  113. Dog's Day - A dog has a birthday, but is disappointed when all he gets is a plate of dog food with a candle in it.
  114. Skin Stealer - A man takes his skin and head off before he goes to bed, but a "coo-coo" steals them and frames the man for things he wouldn't normally do.
  115. Ladies First - A girl who is fond of the phrase "ladies first" gets made a meal of by a cannibal on a trip to the jungle.
  116. Frozen Dream - A boy decides to preserve a dream he had so that he can relive it as an old man.
  117. The Lost Cat - A family wonders where their pet cat has gone, unaware that she is hiding under a hat.
  118. God's Wheel - God gives the reins of a wheel to a boy, but soon takes it back when he asks how long he can use it
  119. Shadow Race - A man says his shadow wins every race when the sun is behind him, but wins when it is in front.
  120. Clarence - Young Clarence, obsessed with mail orders for products seen on TV, and soon orders brand-new parents.
  121. Rhino Pen
  122. Push Button - Shel presses several buttons, which make different sounds, but ends up burping when he pushes his belly button.
  123. Kidnapped! - A girl gets kidnapped, and held for ransom, which is why she says she is late for school.
  124. Suspense - Shel tells a story of a woman about to be run over by a train, but soon forgets the rest of it.
  125. Dinner Guest - A flying monster visits Shel for dinner, so he decides to hide somewhere.
  126. In Search of Cinderella - The prince from Cinderella talks about his search for the eponymous girl, despite his dislike for bare feet.
  127. Almost Perfect - A girl, from her 7th birthday to her deathday, talks about how things are "almost perfect...but not quite".
  128. Pie Problem - An overweight man complains about how he'll die if he eats another slice of pie (or will if he doesn't), but does so anyway.
  129. The Oak and the Rose - A rose and an oak tree talk to each other about various things, and the rose feels the latter has no time to talk now that it's grown so tall, but the tree says the problem is how small the rose is now.
  130. They've Put a Brassiere on the Camel - A bra is put on a female camel's humps, and soon, people are contemplating putting clothes on other animals, much to Shel's dismay.
  131. This Bridge - Shel tells of a bridge that takes a person to where they want to go, but only halfway.

2009 Special Edition poems

  1. Rhoda's Dress - Rhoda, a girl who wears a worn out and torn dress, perches a large "gooney bird" on her head, which becomes such an eye-catching sight that nobody even notices her dress.
  2. Creative
  3. The Snack - After a man takes home a clam from the beach to boil for a midnight snack, things take a turn for the worse when the clam grows twelve feet tall, and begins pouring tabasco sauce on the man's back, implying that the clam intends to eat him.
  4. Garbage Soup Recipe
  5. The Books I Have Not Read - A boy states he has promised to read thousands of books, but says that only after he has plenty of childhood fun, grows up, gets marries, gets a job, has children, and becomes elderly, he may read them.
  6. Presents, Presents, Presents - A birthday party goes awry for a boy when after the party, his house becomes almost completely flooded with presents, leaving him unable to go anywhere.
  7. Binky Blum - A concerned narrator questions a young thumb-sucker by the name of Binky Blum about his habit.
  8. Exercisin' Hen - A hen begins exercising daily after realizing that all the fat hens in the coop are missing.
  9. Birthday - Unable to get a party clown, toys, or cake, Shel instead gives the birthday recipient a "birthday snake".
  10. Collecting - A man describes his strange hobby of collecting hamburgers.
  11. The Hungry TV Set - A sentient TV set, longing to try the foods it sees advertised on its screen, unplugs itself and heads down to the kitchen late at night and pigs out on everything, only to end up with indigestion by the time it plugs itself back in.
  12. Veggie Play - A boy questions why he is not playing the role of the carrot in his school's "Veggie Play", oblivious to the fact that he is now plump and no longer thin enough to play the carrot.

Awards and nominations

Winner of the 1984 William Allen White Children's Book Award.

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