The tradition of artists like Barbara Cooney and Virginia Lee Burton lives on in 2019's Caldecott Medalist Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall.
Originally inspired by a lithograph of a lighthouse bought at a Brooklyn flea market, Sophie Blackall started thinking about what it would be like to live in one. She researched her material by delving deep into coastguard archives and lighthouse museums, and by staying in the Quirpon Island Lighthouse in Newfoundland, Canada. The result is a gentle story following a small family of lighthouse keepers as the seasons change around them.
It is really the illustrations that make this picture book stand out. The noble lighthouse stands in the same spot throughout the book, but everything around it changes—weather and seasons and light and time. Even the cover of the book reflects this as the dust jacket reflects the daytime, while the naked book has the lamp's beam gleaming through the starlight. Inside, circular vignettes depicting the lighthouse keeper as he goes about his tasks echo the round shape of the lighthouse.
The prose is sparse and poetic, but not quite rhythmic enough to be called poetry. The story is filled with details about lighthouse life—tending the lamp, keeping logs, daily activities, and even rescuing sailors from the occasional shipwreck. But it is (at first) the keeper's solitary life, then the delight of having his wife arrive that gives the book much of its charm. It is a rather slow-paced story and may bore some children who are used to more action, but the attention to detail will fascinate many and bring them back to the book again and again.
Review by Eli Evans
Formerly home educated and now father of five, Eli loves discovering amazing books, new and old. The owner and manager of Exodus since 1998, his focus is on offering thoughtful and well-written books that inspire the imagination and promote creativity and diligence while living for God. Read more of his reviews here
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