'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 2 October 2019

Review: Hello Lighthouse

Australian author Sophie Blackall is back with another Caldecott Medal-winning title, Hello Lighthouse. The first for Finding Winnie in 2016 was also the first time the Caldecott was awarded to an Australian creator. 

Hello Lighthouse is exquisite. The story is a realistic portrayal of the daily life of a lighthouse keeper and his lighthouse and the dedicated service demanded by the role. 

The full-page illustrations in Chinese ink and watercolour on hot-press paper draw attention to effort, quality, elegance of design and layout that together as a team, make this an experience.

The new keeper arrives to replace the old. He must polish the lens, refill the oil, wind the clockwork that keeps the lamp in motion and keep his logbook up to date. These repetitious duties are undertaken with love.  There is an open plan of the lighthouse that allows children an inside view of the round live-in levels and activities that take place.

There is just the sound of the wind and the crashing of the waves to keep the man company. Letters to his wife are sent in a bottle with the sea. The beacon is the only light in the darkness. A ship called the tender is his only contact, until it delivers his wife.

This beautifully told story speaks of loneliness, solitude and isolation. It tells of the lighthouse keeper’s responsibility and the dangers involved. When sailors need saving he risks his life to reach them.

The changing seasons bring challenges. The sea freezes over in winter. Icebergs pass on their journey south. Storms force him to strap himself to the railings as he searches the horizon with his telescope.

There is birth and sickness. In times of need, his role is taken up by his wife. The form of their lives rotates and repeats until their tenure ends. While everything around it changes, the lighthouse stays the same.

A two-page Note from the Author at the end of the story gives a deep and valuable insight into the devoted keeper’s role. It is another story on its own that informs about the hundreds of women appointed as lighthouses keepers, how daily rituals are combined with constant maintenance, and how water and food was supplied to the lighthouse by the tender, along with other interesting facts.

This is a book collector’s dream. Stunning in every way, text and illustration are inseparable in their glow.

Title: Hello Lighthouse
Author/Illustrator: Sophie Blackall
Publisher: Hachette, $24.99
Publication Date: February 2019
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781408357163
For ages: 5+
Type: Picture Book