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Monday, April 11, 2016

Poems in the Attic, written by Nikki Grimes and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. Lee & Low Books, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2015. $24.95 ages 5 and up

"Garden of the Gods

On Bring Your Dad Day,
I brought along a photo
of the two of us
at the Garden of the Gods.

I clutched my photo, wishing ... "

While visiting with her grandmother, a little girl makes quite the discovery. In a smooth wooden box, she finds a collection of poems that her mother wrote when she was just seven ... the same age as her daughter is now! She reads each one with interest, and with wonder at the travels that inspired them.

The discovered poems give the child a close look at the life led by her mother's family as they travelled from base to base. Their Air Force captain husband and father was posted to many different spots around the world. The poetry evokes the joy found in each new home, and also inspires the child to write verse of her own to partner with her mother's tanka poetry.


Grandma sings me to sleep
with one of Mama's poems.
I dream of skies
my mother's eyes have seen."

"Aurora Borealis

My brother and me
held hands, breathless, as we watched
this dancing rainbow
shimmy 'cross Alaska's sky
in the skirt of night and light."

Each double page spread faces the child's experience and free verse response to the discovered tanka poems of her mother. Child and grandmother are placed in a small oval image while the facing illustration is much larger and creates the settings for the memorable stories from her family's many homes in beautifully rendered acrylic, oil and collage artwork.

Learning her family history through her mother's poems is an amazing discovery, and helps the little girl understand that, just as she is missing her mother while staying with her grandmother, her mother must also have missed her father every time he was deployed to work in a new part of the world.

"Cabrillo Beach

Home on leave, Daddy
took me to the Grunion Run!
Our flashlights found them -
slim fish, silver as new dimes,
wiggling ashore to lay eggs."

The old Japanese tanka poetic form is explained in backmatter, as is free verse. Nikki Grimes includes an author's note and a list of the Air Force bases mentioned in her lovely poetry.

Enjoy a new poem every day in celebration of Poetry Month!

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