Into an imaginary attic and beyond

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In the Attic, written by Hiawyn Oram and illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. 32 pp. $10.95. This book is one of the most creative and engrossing children's books this season. It takes one into an open-ended, imaginary world where anything and everything is possible. Its beautifully rendered, detailed illustrations provide multi-avenues for entry into quite an extraordinary -- yet commonplace -- household storage room.

As a young boy looks, a little bored, over his vast collection of toys, his eyes fix on his shiny red fire truck and its rickety ladder. All of a sudden the boy is climbing this ladder through his living room ceiling into the attic. At first the attic seems as empty of possibilities as his toy-filled living room. But is it?

Things begin to take on new dimensions for the boy. He sees some mice and begins to imagine them busily involved with some very familiar household chores: trying to crack the shell off a soft-boiled egg; rolling up the end of a tube of toothpaste to squirt some of its paste on to a brush; using a fork to spring loose some cheese on a mousetrap. A spider appears and the boy helps it to spin a huge web, which reaches out into the universe over two ancient Egyptian pyramids.

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In short, the attic of the boy's imaginings has become a creative springboard from which to ``[open] windows to other worlds.'' And the reader eagerly explores these worlds with him. Dinner time brings this flight of fantasy to a conclusion. When the boy tells his mother where he's been all day, she says, ``But we don't have an attic.'' The reader and the boy know better, and the boy concludes, ``She hasn't found the ladder.''

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