Review by Stacy Mills
Poetry is a great genre for expressing feelings and thoughts. My maternal grandmother was a poet. She captured her young life living in the Oklahoma prairie through her poetry. Her poems tell a story of the happiness as well as the trials that she and her parents and siblings experienced in the early 1900s. Having her poems to read brings back to mind the stories she used to tell us of her life with her mother and father and eight brothers and sisters growing up in the desolate country of the panhandle.
She had a loving relationship with the land—its winds, snow, wildflowers, etc. Her poems are records that are now treasures to me. Poems in the Attic by Nikki Grimes is a book about a young girl who, in rummaging through her grandmother’s attic, finds poems her mother had written as a child. These poems tell of all the places that the family lived around the world as the daughter of an Air Force captain. She begins by writing “Grandma’s attic is stacked with secrets…” The young child discovers that her mother was seven when she began writing-“same age as me!” The poems have kept the memories in place, “My mama glued her memories with words that would last forever.”
These poems are written about places and experiences in California, Alaska, New Mexico, Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Germany, Japan, Portugal, and the Washington D.C. area. Whew! Through the eyes of the young daughter as she reads her mother’s poetry, she reflects on things like all the moving that her mother had experienced, “I get dizzy thinking about all the good-byes.” As a gesture of love, she proceeds to put together all of her mother’s poems into a book to present to her. When she does give her mother the book, she writes, “Breathlessly, I wait for her to unwrap our memories.”
This is a charming children’s book; one that can create opportunities for dialogue between parent and child. Perhaps it will strike a chord with those of you who have experienced multiple moves in your life. These poems tell a story in the forms of free verse for the girl’s poems and tanka (a poem which includes personal experience and a resulting profound feeling) for Mama’s. Be mindful of the illustrations as well.
Elizabeth Zunon is an award-winning illustrator of picture books. She felt an immediate connection to Poems in the Attic as she had been previously presented with a box of letters her own mother had written as a college student. This might just be the impetus you need to go searching in your own grandma’s attic.
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