Poems in the Attic

By The Horn Book

On a visit to her grandmother’s house, a little girl finds her mother’s stash of childhood poems in the attic. The poems written by the mom in this story are tanka poems, an ancient Japanese form made up of five lines each and with strict syllable requirements. The daughter is a poet, too, and her poems about the experience of finding and reading her mother’s work appear in free verse on left-hand pages (the mother’s poems are on the right, italicized). Each page turn is like opening that old box in the attic—you never know what is coming next. The poems reflect the mother’s childhood travels as an Air Force brat—her family was stationed in a variety of places, from Los Angeles and Alaska to Japan and Portugal. The little girl learns tidbits about her mom’s childhood and then creates her own handmade book, including both her poems and her mother’s. Pink-toned acrylic and oil illustrations are enhanced by cut-paper and fabric collage, allowing readers to imagine seeing the aurora borealis in Alaska, go hiking in Germany, or smell the cherry blossoms in Japan. The final spread is a celebration of love and poetry as the girl is reunited with her mother. Young poets (and their parents and grandparents) will be inspired to write poems for future generations; the author’s note and notes on the poetic forms will help them get started.