Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Watchtower: Hello, Lighthouse by Sophie Blackwell

On the highest rock of a tiny island at the edge of the world stands a lighthouse.

It is built to last forever, to send its light out to sea, guiding ships on their way.

Nothing seems more lonely than a lighthouse, but the lighthouse needs its keeper to trim the wick and tend its light, and he soon arrives, all alone, to live in the round rooms--kitchen, bedroom, office, and the all-important light room--and to faithfully keep his logs. It is a solitary life, his light sending out its one message. I'm here.
Hello, Hello, Hello!

But then his wife arrives, belayed over in a bosun's chair to join him, and in time a baby comes, and the rooms are bustling with family life, love and duty--small lives of monotony and bravery, routine and high adventure, the ephemeral amid the eternal as quiet seas change to giant waves that engulf the little island and sailors on sinking ships need rescue at sea.

Sophie Blackwell's 2019 Caldecott Medal book, Hello Lighthouse (Little, Brown and Company, 2018) is a real tour de force of a picture book. Her precise, somewhat stylized style has the feel of an eighteenth century New England handbook, the stalwart straight lines of the lighthouse set against the curves of the ever-changing ocean, its light piercing the night to steer ships to safety. Blackwell's story juxtaposes dull sameness and dire dangers, all in lovely artwork that enlivens her narration, a single family's daily life and their work, lighting the way for others to safe harbor, with the eternally changing sea all around them. This beautiful book, complete with gatefold sea view, brings to life a now-lost period, but Blackwell's detailed watercolor illustrations celebrate its time and the lives of those who kept it bright. A unique and engaging book that is a must-have.

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