Poems in the Attic

By Kirkus Reviews

A girl discovers her mother’s childhood poems in her grandmother’s attic and embarks on a journey through family history that inspires her own poetic tribute to her mother.The mother’s poetry tells of a childhood of constant resettling as the daughter of a base-traveling Air Force captain. Grimes’ poems and Zunon’s paint-and-collage illustrations take readers through the lands and cultures surrounding global U.S Air Force bases, including stories of aurora borealis observed in Alaska, the cherry blossoms seen in Japan, the hills hiked in Germany, and the mountains climbed in Colorado. (The specific bases are identified in a note in the backmatter.) Poetic forms alternate between the free verse of the daughter and her mother’s tanka, an ancient five-line poetry form originating in Japan (and also further explained in the backmatter). Each spread presents one of her mother’s poems within a large, bright illustration and the narrator’s free-verse rumination on it, placed above a smaller, oval vignette. According to her author’s note, Grimes drew on the varied stories of friends who grew up as military brats to create this imagined intergenerational dialogue. The standout “Grandma Says” enlightens readers to the power of reflective writing: “My mama glued her memories with words / so they would last forever.” Succinct poetry shines in this impassioned celebration of history; the stories of this African-American family traveling the globe are rich with heart and color.