This week for Perfect Picture Book Friday, I’m featuring the lovely and lyrical HELLO LIGHTHOUSE.
Title: Hello Lighthouse
Written and illustrated by: Sophie Blackall
Little, Brown and Company, 2018, fiction
For ages: 4 and up
Themes/topics: lighthouses, family life, nostalgia
On the highest rock of a tiny island
at the edge of the world stand a lighthouse.
It is built to last forever.
Sending its light out to sea,
Guiding the ships on their way.
From dusk to dawn, the lighthouse beams.
Summary (from the copyright page):
“Explores the life of one lighthouse as it beams its message out to sea through shifting seasons, changeable weather, and the tenure of its final keeper.”
Why I LOVE this book:
I’ve long been fascinated by lighthouses. We have some beauties here in Oregon. So the gorgeous cover of HELLO LIGHTHOUSE immediately caught my eye. With lyrical prose and exquisite and tender illustrations, Sophie Blackall captures both the drama and the everyday that were part of a keeper’s life.
She depicts the solitude of the keeper’s life and how “throughout the night, he winds the clockwork and keeps the lamp in motion.” And “Every few days he writes her a letter and throws it into the waves.” That’s right! So infrequently did the tender (supply ship) come by, that it was faster to send a message in a bottle to loved ones on land.
And then, when the keeper marries, we see how everyday life took place in those small round rooms and how isolated the lighthouse was during times of illness and childbirth. Blackall also captures exquisite scenes of beauty from this tiny island—from icebergs to whales to the Northern Lights.
So when “a brand-new light” arrives and the “keeper’s work is done,” there is a deep sense of melancholy and nostalgia.
Be sure to read the back matter for many fascinating details. We learn, for example, that “hundreds of women served as lighthouse keepers. Some replaced a husband or father, but many were appointed for the job.”
Writers and teachers might also enjoy this interview with Sophie Blackall in which she discusses the inspiration for the book and her research:
About women who worked in lighthouses: “But when they were there alongside their husbands or fathers, they did all of the same work as the male keeper, but they also cooked and cleaned and bore children,” Blackall says. “I had long wanted to put childbirth into a picture book, and that’s not a terribly easy thing to do. I was so happy that I finally figured out how to do it in this one.”
(For a collection of picture book reviews please visit Susanna Leonard Hill’s site: http://susannahill.com/for-teachers-and-parents/perfect-picture-books/.)