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SUNDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2006
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‘Letters in the Attic’ is well-written, realistic but not suited for youths

By Jenny Morris
Special to The Daily

LETTERS IN THE ATTIC.

By Bonnie Shimko.

Academy Chicago Publishers, 194 pages, $23.50, paperback.

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Bonnie Shimko’s “Letters in the Attic” is full of surprises.

Set in the early 1960s, the story is told by 12-year-old Lizzie. The book has little overt conflict, although it brings up many controversial subjects.

The book is well written and the characters are multi-dimensional. The story follows Lizzie as she parents her mother through a traumatic divorce and moves across the country to New England.

Through it all, she looks for a father while tiptoeing around her mother’s fragile sense of self.

But though it’s told from the viewpoint of a 12-year-old girl, I wouldn’t want a child of that age to read it. I didn’t agree with the values affirmed in “Letters in the Attic.”

I didn’t like its casual acceptance of ideas and lifestyles that I oppose. Some of the language and characters in it, though painfully realistic, were inappropriate for young readers. But like life, although there was much I didn’t like in this book, I was entertained by it.

CHRISTOPHER MOUSE: THE TALE OF A SMALL TRAVELER.

By William Wise.

Bloomsbury, 152 pages, $5.95, paperback.

“Christopher Mouse: The Tale of a Small Traveler” is purportedly a journal found by William Wise. Christopher, the journal keeper, describes himself as “small and weak and totally at the mercy of someone else.” As a white mouse, I suppose, he is.

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The language is measured and deliberate. With little fanfare or dramatization, Christopher retells the events of his life. Patrick Benson’s pen and ink illustrations help.

Early on, Christopher asks his mother about the future beyond their cage. Her answer, though truthful, is grim. The world is full of fickle owners and laboratory experiments. It is a scary place.

A tenderhearted child might be distressed at Christopher’s misfortunes and separation from his family. But the message of the book allays those fears. Life is frightening. It’s scary to think of leaving your mother, especially if you are small and weak. But Christopher Mouse manages to survive the danger and you can, too.

A FURY OF MOTION: POEMS FOR BOYS.

By Charles Ghigna.

Wordsong, 54 pages, $16.95, hardcover

The poems in Charles Ghigna’s “A Fury of Motion: Poems for Boys” are humorous, sad, poignant, philosophical and silly.

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All of the poems are short. Many are just four lines and the longest is two pages. Most of the poems rhyme to some extent and they are concrete with wonderful visual imagery. Reading “Skydiver” is the closest I ever want to come to stepping out of an airplane in flight.

“A Fury of Motion” has poems for boys young and old, as well as girls of any age. Ghigna, of Homewood, provides an excellent introductory volume of poetry because symbolism is limited and the subjects of the poems are commonplace, especially here in Alabama.

These are accessible poems that can also be enjoyed more than once.

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