A Light in the Attic
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4.34 / 5

"A Light in the Attic" Summary

By Shel Silverstein

poetry | 176 pages | Published in 1981

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 lightning strikes me?...This 20th anniversary of Shel Silverstein's A Light in the Attic includes a CD of highlights from his Grammy Award-winning album.Here in the attic of Shel Silverstein you will find Backward Bill, Sour Face Ann, the Meehoo with an Exactlywatt, and the Polar Bear in the Frigidaire. You will talk with 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 the Camel.From the creator of the beloved poetry collections Where the Sidewalk Ends and Falling Up, here is another wondrous book of poems and drawings.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A collection of whimsical and thought-provoking poems that will ignite the imagination of readers both young and old.


In "A Light in the Attic" by Shel Silverstein, readers are taken on a whimsical journey filled with imaginative poems and illustrations. This collection of poems is a classic in children's literature, captivating readers with its humor, creativity, and thought-provoking themes. With its timeless appeal, "A Light in the Attic" continues to be loved by readers of all ages.

Brief Synopsis

"A Light in the Attic" is a collection of poems that takes readers on a journey through the imagination. Set in a world where anything is possible, the book explores various themes such as friendship, adventure, and the power of imagination. Each poem tells a unique story, inviting readers to explore the unknown and embrace their own creativity.

Plot Overview and Setting

The book is divided into several sections, each featuring a different theme or topic. From silly and humorous poems to heartfelt and introspective ones, "A Light in the Attic" covers a wide range of emotions and experiences. The poems are set in a variety of settings, including everyday situations, fantastical worlds, and even the attic itself.

Main Characters

While "A Light in the Attic" does not have a consistent set of characters throughout, it introduces readers to a multitude of colorful and imaginative personas within each poem. Some of the notable characters include:

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia StoutA young girl who refuses to take out the garbage, leading to a comical accumulation of trash
Melinda MaeA young girl who decides to eat a whale, defying expectations and embracing her adventurous spirit
Hector the CollectorA collector of various objects, from stamps to umbrellas, who delights in his unique treasures
The Twistable, Turnable ManA man who is able to contort and twist his body into impossible positions, showcasing the power of flexibility and adaptability

Summary of Different Story Points over Chapters

1. Silly and Humorous Poems

The book begins with a series of silly and humorous poems that tickle the reader's funny bone. From a poem about a peanut butter sandwich sticking to the roof of the mouth to one about a child who refuses to take a bath, these poems are sure to bring laughter and joy.

2. Imaginative Adventures

In this section, readers are taken on imaginative adventures where the ordinary becomes extraordinary. Poems like "How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes" and "It's Dark in Here" transport readers to fantastical worlds and encourage them to embrace their own creativity.

3. Reflections on Life and Emotions

"A Light in the Attic" also delves into deeper themes, exploring life, emotions, and the human experience. Poems like "Listen to the Mustn'ts" and "The Voice" offer insightful reflections on the importance of following one's dreams and finding one's own voice.

4. Friendship and Love

Friendship and love are celebrated in this section, with poems like "The Sitter" and "Hug O' War" reminding readers of the importance of connection and kindness. These poems explore the complexities of relationships and the power of love in our lives.

Main Events

While "A Light in the Attic" does not follow a linear narrative, each poem presents its own set of events and situations. Some of the notable events include:

  • Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout accumulating an enormous pile of garbage in her house.
  • Melinda Mae deciding to eat a whale and discovering the unexpected consequences.
  • Hector the Collector showcasing his vast collection of unique and peculiar objects.
  • The Twistable, Turnable Man contorting his body into unimaginable positions, captivating those around him.

Themes and Insights

  1. Imagination: "A Light in the Attic" celebrates the power of imagination and encourages readers to explore the limitless possibilities it offers. Through whimsical poems and fantastical scenarios, Shel Silverstein invites readers to think outside the box and embrace their own creative potential.
  2. Friendship and Love: The book also highlights the importance of friendship and love in our lives. Whether it is through poems about sharing a secret or giving a hug, Silverstein reminds readers of the joy and connection that comes from nurturing relationships.
  3. Embracing Individuality: "A Light in the Attic" encourages readers to embrace their uniqueness and celebrate their individuality. Through characters like Melinda Mae and The Twistable, Turnable Man, the book teaches the value of being true to oneself and embracing what makes us different.

Reader's Takeaway

"A Light in the Attic" is a delightful and enchanting collection of poems that sparks the imagination and touches the heart. It offers a mix of humor, introspection, and whimsy that captivates readers of all ages. The book's timeless themes and thought-provoking insights make it a must-read for anyone seeking inspiration and a reminder of the power of imagination.


"A Light in the Attic" by Shel Silverstein is a beloved collection of poems that continues to captivate readers with its whimsy and charm. Through its imaginative scenarios, memorable characters, and timeless themes, the book invites readers to explore the magic of their own imaginations and embrace the joy of storytelling. Whether read aloud or savored individually, "A Light in the Attic" is an enduring classic that will continue to inspire and delight generations to come.

A Light in the Attic FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'A Light in the Attic'?

    The genre of 'A Light in the Attic' is children's poetry.

  2. Who is the author of 'A Light in the Attic'?

    The author of 'A Light in the Attic' is Shel Silverstein.

  3. Is 'A Light in the Attic' a collection of poems?

    Yes, 'A Light in the Attic' is a collection of poems.

  4. What age group is 'A Light in the Attic' suitable for?

    'A Light in the Attic' is suitable for children aged 4 and above.

  5. Are the poems in 'A Light in the Attic' humorous?

    Yes, many of the poems in 'A Light in the Attic' are humorous.

  6. Are there illustrations in 'A Light in the Attic'?

    Yes, 'A Light in the Attic' is filled with whimsical illustrations by Shel Silverstein.

  7. Is 'A Light in the Attic' a sequel to another book?

    No, 'A Light in the Attic' is not a sequel to another book.

  8. Can adults enjoy reading 'A Light in the Attic'?

    Yes, 'A Light in the Attic' is beloved by readers of all ages.

  9. Does 'A Light in the Attic' contain moral lessons?

    Some of the poems in 'A Light in the Attic' contain subtle moral lessons.

  10. Is 'A Light in the Attic' a popular book?

    Yes, 'A Light in the Attic' is a popular and well-loved book.