November 21 – It’s National Aviation History Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aim-for-the-skies-cover

About the Holiday

It seems that people have always been fascinated with flight. The first kite was invented in 1000 BCE in China; around 400 BCE Archytas of Tarentum developed a steam-powered pigeon; and most people are familiar with the designs of flying machines that Leonardo de Vinci created in the late 1400s. It wasn’t until 1680 that actual human flight was abandoned when an Italian mathematician determined that human muscles were incompatible with flight.

Zip ahead about 100 years and the first hot-air balloon took flight, which led to more complex technology, resulting in Wilbur and Orville Wright’s flight in 1903. From there, it seemed, the sky was the limit. Amelia Earhart became the first woman to complete a trans-Atlantic Ocean solo flight in 1932, and in 1947 Charles Yeager broke the sound barrier. Given this long history, it’s astounding to think that only 58 years span the time from that modest 12-second flight by the Wright Brothers to the first manned space mission by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin! To celebrate the month, visit a local museum or read up on some of the pioneers of early flight—like the courageous women in today’s book.

Aim for the Skies: Jerrie Mock and Joan Merriam Smith’s Race to Complete Amelia Earhart’s Quest

Written by Aimée Bissonette | Illustrated by Doris Ettlinger

 

Jerrie Mock was only seven when her first airplane ride convinced her she wanted to be a pilot when she grew up. At first she only dreamed of flying across Ohio, but later, when she followed reports of Amelia Earhart’s daring flights, she decided she too wanted to see the whole world.

In 1952, Joan Merriam was fifteen years old when she took her first airplane ride and was invited by the pilots to see the cockpit. That’s all it took for Joan to know she wanted to be a pilot too. She began flying lessons and was in the air before she even got her drivers license. By 1963, Joan was working as a professional pilot and bought a plane of her own. One of Joan’s goals was to “circle the globe following the exact route” her idol Amelia Earhart had charted.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aim-for-the-skies-Jerrie-Mock

Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

By the time Jerrie was thirty-seven, she had three children and ran a flight business with her husband, Russ. One night when she told Russ that she was bored, he joked, “‘Maybe you should get in your plane and fly around the world.’” Jerrie took him up on that. Both women spent months planning and charting their flights. Neither one knew that the other was getting ready for the same flight until their plans hit the media. Suddenly, what they had both thought was a solitary pursuit became a race to the finish.

Joan took off on March 17, 1964 from an airstrip in Oakland, California accompanied only by two stuffed bears. Two days later, surrounded by reporters asking if she thought she could beat Joan, Jerrie climbed into her tiny plane and took off too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aim-for-the-skies-Joan-Merriam

Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Jerrie’s troubles began right away. First, her radio didn’t work then bad weather kept her grounded for six days. “Where was Joan?” she wondered. While Joan’s flight began smoothly, a gas leak brought her down to earth for a week while the tank was repaired. Back in the air, Jerrie seemed to suffer problems every day. “She battled dangerous ice buildup, burning radio wires, and bad weather. She flew into a sandstorm over the Arabian Desert and couldn’t see.” But she encouraged herself to stay calm and use her instruments. Joan was having it no easier. “Heavy rains pounded her pane. Her windshield leaked. Water puddled at her feet. When she finally made it to Brazil, she was delayed again. This time by a government revolution!”

Day by day both women battled the elements and equipment failures but kept flying. Everyone around the world seemed to be watching the race. Russ told Jerrie she had to fly faster—that Joan was winning. In Pakistan, people told Joan that Jerrie had landed there five days earlier. Finally, on April 17, twenty-nine days after she had left, Jerrie returned to Ohio to a hero’s welcome. Reporters and crowds pushed to see her. “Jerry’s heart pounded. She had done it. She had flown around the world. She had won the race.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aim-for-the-skies-Jerrie-bored

Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Where was Joan? She “was in Lae, New Guinea—the last place Amelia Earhart was seen alive—when she heard the race was over.” Even though she knew she was behind Jerrie, “the news was still hard to take.” She sent Jerrie a congratulations telegram, and then left for Guam. There, she walked and “thought about her childhood dream. She thought about the race and she thought about losing.”  Then she thought about why she had undertaken the flight. She had done it to honor Amelia Earhart. Even though Jerrie had won the race, Joan thought that didn’t make her a loser. She “could still do what she set out to do.”

Joan landed back in Oakland, California on May 12, 1964. Her plane was in such bad shape that the Coast Guard had to dispatch a plane to guide her in. Joan was also welcomed by cheering crowds and reporters. Both Jerrie and Joan had accomplished incredible feats. Jerrie “became the first woman to fly around the world,” and Joan—”following Amelia’s exact route along the equator”—was the first “pilot—man or woman”—to fly that distance solo. And both women received thanks from Amelia’s sister, Muriel, for honoring Amelia—”a pilot who, like them, chose to follow her dreams.”

An Author’s Note describing the differences in Joan and Jerrie’s routes and aircraft as well as a bit more about their lives after the historic flight and a map outlining each woman’s flight pattern follow the text. Resources for further reading are also included.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aim-for-the-skies-planning-routes

Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Aimée Bissonette’s thrilling biography of two woman, two flights, and one race will keep young readers on the edge of their seats. Riveting details reveal the staggering dangers the women faced as well as their astonishing courage, dedication, and persistence. Bissonette’s fast-paced, electric storytelling puts kids in the cockpit as Joan and Jerrie cross the globe. As Jerrie wins the race and Joan reevaluates her goal, Bissonette makes important and welcome points about the nature of competition, keeping one’s eyes and heart on an original goal without getting caught up in distracting hype, and having the self-confidence to believe in oneself and recognize one’s accomplishments.

In her realistic, richly colored watercolors, Doris Ettlinger follows Jerrie and Joan as they experience their first airplane rides that determine their futures, plot their flights around the world, and take off. The obstacles each woman dealt with are dramatically portrayed as winds whip trees, blinding rain and sand storms thwart progress, and mechanical failures keep the women grounded. Children get a look at landscapes from Bermuda, the Philippines, Africa, and Pakistan as Joan and Jerrie complete their flights. Expressive depictions of Jerrie’s and Joan’s emotions show readers the determination, pressures, and ultimate joy each woman felt during these historic months of 1964.

An exhilarating biography and adventure story rolled into one, Aim for the Skies is a book that will inspire young readers to keep their eyes on their goals despite obstacles and setbacks while reassuring them that winning is accomplished by being true to yourself. Children who love history, flight, biographies, and adventure will find this a compelling book to add to their home bookshelf. Classroom, school, and public libraries will want to include Aim for the Skies in their collections for story times and lessons.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363810

Discover more about Aimée Bissonette and her books on her website.

National Aviation History Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Flying-is-Fabulous-Maze

Flying is Fabulous! Maze

 

Can you pilot the airplane along its route to the airport in this printable Flying is Fabulous! Maze?

Flying is Fabulous! MazeFlying is Fabulous! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aim-for-the-skies-cover

You can find Aim for the Skies at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

August 7 – National Lighthouse Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-colfax's-light-cover

About the Holiday

Lighthouses have been in use since the earliest days of sea-going vessels. Built to warn sailors of dangerous and damaging rocks and reefs, these sentinels are a picturesque and fascinating part of history. From man—and woman—tended lights to today’s automated systems, lighthouses are a beacon of inspiration and imagination.

Miss Colfax’s Light

Written by Aimée Bissonette | Illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen

 

In 1861 when Harriet Colfax’s brother fell ill and decided to leave Indiana, Harriet had two options: she could leave with him—after all she had come to Indiana with him and worked with him at their newspaper—or she could stay on as the lighthouse keeper of the Michigan City Lighthouse, making $350 a year. Most women might have chosen to leave, but Harriet did not want to give up her independence or leave her best friend, Ann. She took the job as lighthouse keeper even though many in town thought she was too weak or too inexperienced to do the work.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-colfax's-light-Michigan-city-lighthouse

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2016, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

Harriet knew the ships on the sometimes wild waters of Lake Michigan—one of the northern United States’ Great Lakes—relied on the lighthouse to keep them from danger. Twice every night she had to carry “whale oil in a bucket up narrow stairs to the top of the lantern tower” to refill the light and then polish the Fresnel lens. During the day, she “cleaned and painted…varnished the woodwork and shined the brass…and wrote notes in her log.”

It didn’t matter if Harriet was tired or sick or if winter storms rocked the shore, Harriet’s work went on. In 1871 a beacon light was installed at the end of the Michigan City east pier. Now in addition to the main lighthouse, Harriet had to keep this signal lit too. To do so required a long walk down a wooden catwalk that jutted far out into the lake. At times the freezing water roiled and splashed over the catwalk, making the walk tricky and dangerous. By this time lard had replaced whale oil as fuel. While it was cheaper and easier to get, it also had to be heated to pour. Sometimes on frigid winter nights “the lard oil hardened in the cold and Harriet had to fight back through the wind to reheat the oil” on her stove.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-colfax's-light-harriet-adding-oil

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2016, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

In 1874 the beacon light was moved to the west pier—farther away. Instead of being within walking distance, Harriet now had to “row a small boat across a creek, hike the far shore, and cross a longer catwalk to light the beacon light.” One night in 1886 storms raged as Harriet made her way down the west pier. “Driving sleet covered her coat with ice. Sand from the dunes along the lake pelted Harriet’s face, stinging her cheeks. Her boots slipped and slid on the catwalk.” Only moments after she finished filling the beacon light and stepped off the catwalk, “a deafening screech filled the air” as the beacon tower “ripped from its moorings and crashed into the lake.”

Harriet’s dedication to the Michigan City Lighthouse continued every day and every night for 43 years. People in town came to call the landmark “Miss Colfax’s Light,” and ship captains named it “Old Faithful.” Over the years her vantage point on the tip of the shore allowed Harriet to experience more than stormy seas. She also saw “brilliant sunsets, lunar eclipses, and silent, dancing northern lights. She saw tall-masted schooners with white sails give way to steamships of iron and steel.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-colfax's-light-meeting-a-ship-captain

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2016, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

In 1904, when Harriet was 80 years old, the Michigan City Lighthouse underwent a renovation. It acquired a fog signal, and the oil-burning mechanism was replaced with a steam engine and boilers with huge coal-fired furnaces that required several keepers. Although Harriet was sad to leave her life as a lighthouse keeper behind, she understood. With the same bravery that had brought her to the lighthouse, she opened the door and stepped out to what came next.

An author’s note about Harriet Colfax follows the text along with a glossary of terms used in the book.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-colfax's-light-harriet

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2016, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

The life of Harriet Colfax needs no embellishment to reveal the kind of determination and dedication it took to keep the Michigan City Lighthouse shining. Aimée Bissonette tells this brave woman’s story straightforwardly, focusing on particular moments when her duties were increased or her resolve challenged. Harriet’s personal motto that kept her going: “I can do this” is repeated throughout the book, echoing the revolving beacon that shines continuously on the shore of Lake Michigan. Actual entries from Harriet’s log punctuate the text, lending authenticity and Harriet’s voice to the story.Children will be fascinated by this snapshot of American (and world) history.

Eileen Ryan Ewen’s action-filled paintings of Harriet and her work beautifully demonstrate to readers Harriet’s incredible will and perseverance under the most difficult circumstances. The narrow stairs of the lighthouse pose daunting in the middle of the night; the seas of Lake Michigan surge and lap at Harriet and the winds buffet her as she navigates the catwalk; and an exhausted Harriet stands at the stove melting lard to light the lens. Children interested in ships and the sea will find much here to excite their imaginations.

A captivating biography of a woman who lived life on her own terms long before there was support for her choices, Miss Colfax’s Light will inspire today’s kids and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1585369553

Meet Aimée Bissonette and learn more about her books and work on her website!

To view Eileen Ryan Ewen‘s portfolio, sketchbook, and other books, visit her website!

National Lighthouse Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shining-lighhouse-maze

Shining Lighthouse Maze

 

Lighthouses protect ships from rocks, fog, and other dangers. Can you help the beam from the lighthouse reach the tugboat that is approaching in this printable Shining Lighthouse Maze? Here’s the Solution.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-national-archives-lighthouse-coloring-book-2018

National Archives Lighthouses from the Collection

 

If you’re fascinated by lighthouses, you’ll love exploring these drawings from the United States National Archives. Click below to download a pdf of lighthouses from around the country. 

The National Archives of the United States Coloring Book of Lighthouses

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-colfax's-light-cover

You can find Miss Colfax’s Light at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

November 9 – It’s National Aviation History Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aim-for-the-skies-cover

About the Holiday

It seems that people have always been fascinated with flight. The first kite was invented in 1000 BCE in China; around 400 BCE Archytas of Tarentum developed a steam-powered pigeon; and most people are familiar with the designs of flying machines that Leonardo de Vinci created in the late 1400s. It wasn’t until 1680 that actual human flight was abandoned when an Italian mathematician determined that human muscles were incompatible with flight.

Zip ahead about 100 years and the first hot-air balloon took flight, which led to more complex technology, resulting in Wilbur and Orville Wright’s flight in 1903. From there, it seemed, the sky was the limit. Amelia Earhart became the first woman to complete a trans-Atlantic Ocean solo flight in 1932, and in 1947 Charles Yeager broke the sound barrier. Given this long history, it’s astounding to think that only 58 years span the time from that modest 12-second flight by the Wright Brothers to the first manned space mission by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin! To celebrate the month, visit a local museum or read up on some of the pioneers of early flight—like the courageous women in today’s book.

Aim for the Skies: Jerrie Mock and Joan Merriam Smith’s Race to Complete Amelia Earhart’s Quest

Written by Aimée Bissonette | Illustrated by Doris Ettlinger

 

Jerrie Mock was only seven when her first airplane ride convinced her she wanted to be a pilot when she grew up. At first she only dreamed of flying across Ohio, but later, when she followed reports of Amelia Earhart’s daring flights, she decided she too wanted to see the whole world.

In 1952, Joan Merriam was fifteen years old when she took her first airplane ride and was invited by the pilots to see the cockpit. That’s all it took for Joan to know she wanted to be a pilot too. She began flying lessons and was in the air before she even got her drivers license. By 1963, Joan was working as a professional pilot and bought a plane of her own. One of Joan’s goals was to “circle the globe following the exact route” her idol Amelia Earhart had charted.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aim-for-the-skies-Jerrie-Mock

Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

By the time Jerrie was thirty-seven, she had three children and ran a flight business with her husband, Russ. One night when she told Russ that she was bored, he joked, “‘Maybe you should get in your plane and fly around the world.’” Jerrie took him up on that. Both women spent months planning and charting their flights. Neither one knew that the other was getting ready for the same flight until their plans hit the media. Suddenly, what they had both thought was a solitary pursuit became a race to the finish.

Joan took off on March 17, 1964 from an airstrip in Oakland, California accompanied only by two stuffed bears. Two days later, surrounded by reporters asking if she thought she could beat Joan, Jerrie climbed into her tiny plane and took off too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aim-for-the-skies-Joan-Merriam

Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Jerrie’s troubles began right away. First, her radio didn’t work then bad weather kept her grounded for six days. “Where was Joan?” she wondered. While Joan’s flight began smoothly, a gas leak brought her down to earth for a week while the tank was repaired. Back in the air, Jerrie seemed to suffer problems every day. “She battled dangerous ice buildup, burning radio wires, and bad weather. She flew into a sandstorm over the Arabian Desert and couldn’t see.” But she encouraged herself to stay calm and use her instruments. Joan was having it no easier. “Heavy rains pounded her pane. Her windshield leaked. Water puddled at her feet. When she finally made it to Brazil, she was delayed again. This time by a government revolution!”

Day by day both women battled the elements and equipment failures but kept flying. Everyone around the world seemed to be watching the race. Russ told Jerrie she had to fly faster—that Joan was winning. In Pakistan, people told Joan that Jerrie had landed there five days earlier. Finally, on April 17, twenty-nine days after she had left, Jerrie returned to Ohio to a hero’s welcome. Reporters and crowds pushed to see her. “Jerry’s heart pounded. She had done it. She had flown around the world. She had won the race.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aim-for-the-skies-Jerrie-bored

Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Where was Joan? She “was in Lae, New Guinea—the last place Amelia Earhart was seen alive—when she heard the race was over.” Even though she knew she was behind Jerrie, “the news was still hard to take.” She sent Jerrie a congratulations telegram, and then left for Guam. There, she walked and “thought about her childhood dream. She thought about the race and she thought about losing.”  Then she thought about why she had undertaken the flight. She had done it to honor Amelia Earhart. Even though Jerrie had won the race, Joan thought that didn’t make her a loser. She “could still do what she set out to do.”

Joan landed back in Oakland, California on May 12, 1964. Her plane was in such bad shape that the Coast Guard had to dispatch a plane to guide her in. Joan was also welcomed by cheering crowds and reporters. Both Jerrie and Joan had accomplished incredible feats. Jerrie “became the first woman to fly around the world,” and Joan—”following Amelia’s exact route along the equator”—was the first “pilot—man or woman”—to fly that distance solo. And both women received thanks from Amelia’s sister, Muriel, for honoring Amelia—”a pilot who, like them, chose to follow her dreams.”

An Author’s Note describing the differences in Joan and Jerrie’s routes and aircraft as well as a bit more about their lives after the historic flight and a map outlining each woman’s flight pattern follow the text. Resources for further reading are also included.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aim-for-the-skies-planning-routes

Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Aimée Bissonette’s thrilling biography of two woman, two flights, and one race will keep young readers on the edge of their seats. Riveting details reveal the staggering dangers the women faced as well as their astonishing courage, dedication, and persistence. Bissonette’s fast-paced, electric storytelling puts kids in the cockpit as Joan and Jerrie cross the globe. As Jerrie wins the race and Joan reevaluates her goal, Bissonette makes important and welcome points about the nature of competition, keeping one’s eyes and heart on an original goal without getting caught up in distracting hype, and having the self-confidence to believe in oneself and recognize one’s accomplishments.

In her realistic, richly colored watercolors, Doris Ettlinger follows Jerrie and Joan as they experience their first airplane rides that determine their futures, plot their flights around the world, and take off. The obstacles each woman dealt with are dramatically portrayed as winds whip trees, blinding rain and sand storms thwart progress, and mechanical failures keep the women grounded. Children get a look at landscapes from Bermuda, the Philippines, Africa, and Pakistan as Joan and Jerrie complete their flights. Expressive depictions of Jerrie’s and Joan’s emotions show readers the determination, pressures, and ultimate joy each woman felt during these historic months of 1964.

An exhilarating biography and adventure story rolled into one, Aim for the Skies is a book that will inspire young readers to keep their eyes on their goals despite obstacles and setbacks while reassuring them that winning is accomplished by being true to yourself. Children who love history, flight, biographies, and adventure will find this a compelling book to add to their home bookshelf. Classroom, school, and public libraries will want to include Aim for the Skies in their collections for story times and lessons.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363810

Discover more about Aimée Bissonette and her books on her website.

National Aviation History Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Flying-is-Fabulous-Maze

Flying is Fabulous! Maze

 

Can you pilot the airplane along its route to the airport in this printable Flying is Fabulous! Maze?

Flying is Fabulous! MazeFlying is Fabulous! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aim-for-the-skies-cover

You can find Aim for the Skies at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

August 7 – National Lighthouse Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-colfax's-light-cover

About the Holiday

Lighthouses have been in use since the earliest days of sea-going vessels. Built to warn sailors of dangerous and damaging rocks and reefs, these sentinels are a picturesque and fascinating part of history. From man—and woman—tended lights to today’s automated systems, lighthouses are a beacon of inspiration and imagination.

Miss Colfax’s Light

Written by Aimée Bissonette | Illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen

 

In 1861 when Harriet Colfax’s brother fell ill and decided to leave Indiana, Harriet had two options: she could leave with him—after all she had come to Indiana with him and worked with him at their newspaper—or she could stay on as the lighthouse keeper of the Michigan City Lighthouse, making $350 a year. Most women might have chosen to leave, but Harriet did not want to give up her independence or leave her best friend, Ann. She took the job as lighthouse keeper even though many in town thought she was too weak or too inexperienced to do the work.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-colfax's-light-Michigan-city-lighthouse

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

Harriet knew the ships on the sometimes wild waters of Lake Michigan—one of the northern United States’ Great Lakes—relied on the lighthouse to keep them from danger. Twice every night she had to carry “whale oil in a bucket up narrow stairs to the top of the lantern tower” to refill the light and then polish the Fresnel lens. During the day, she “cleaned and painted…varnished the woodwork and shined the brass…and wrote notes in her log.”

It didn’t matter if Harriet was tired or sick or if winter storms rocked the shore, Harriet’s work went on. In 1871 a beacon light was installed at the end of the Michigan City east pier. Now in addition to the main lighthouse, Harriet had to keep this signal lit too. To do so required a long walk down a wooden catwalk that jutted far out into the lake. At times the freezing water roiled and splashed over the catwalk, making the walk tricky and dangerous. By this time lard had replaced whale oil as fuel. While it was cheaper and easier to get, it also had to be heated to pour. Sometimes on frigid winter nights “the lard oil hardened in the cold and Harriet had to fight back through the wind to reheat the oil” on her stove.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-colfax's-light-harriet-adding-oil

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

In 1874 the beacon light was moved to the west pier—farther away. Instead of being within walking distance, Harriet now had to “row a small boat across a creek, hike the far shore, and cross a longer catwalk to light the beacon light.” One night in 1886 storms raged as Harriet made her way down the west pier. “Driving sleet covered her coat with ice. Sand from the dunes along the lake pelted Harriet’s face, stinging her cheeks. Her boots slipped and slid on the catwalk.” Only moments after she finished filling the beacon light and stepped off the catwalk, “a deafening screech filled the air” as the beacon tower “ripped from its moorings and crashed into the lake.”

Harriet’s dedication to the Michigan City Lighthouse continued every day and every night for 43 years. People in town came to call the landmark “Miss Colfax’s Light,” and ship captains named it “Old Faithful.” Over the years her vantage point on the tip of the shore allowed Harriet to experience more than stormy seas. She also saw “brilliant sunsets, lunar eclipses, and silent, dancing northern lights. She saw tall-masted schooners with white sails give way to steamships of iron and steel.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-colfax's-light-meeting-a-ship-captain

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

In 1904, when Harriet was 80 years old, the Michigan City Lighthouse underwent a renovation. It acquired a fog signal, and the oil-burning mechanism was replaced with a steam engine and boilers with huge coal-fired furnaces that required several keepers. Although Harriet was sad to leave her life as a lighthouse keeper behind, she understood. With the same bravery that had brought her to the lighthouse, she opened the door and stepped out to what came next.

The life of Harriet Colfax needs no embellishment to reveal the kind of determination and dedication it took to keep the Michigan City Lighthouse shining. Aimée Bissonette tells this brave woman’s story straightforwardly, focusing on particular moments when her duties were increased or her resolve challenged. Harriet’s personal motto that kept her going: “I can do this” is repeated throughout the book, echoing the revolving beacon that shines continuously on the shore of Lake Michigan. Actual entries from Harriet’s log punctuate the text, lending authenticity and Harriet’s voice to the story.Children will be fascinated by this snapshot of American (and world) history.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-colfax's-light-harriet

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

Eileen Ryan Ewen’s action-filled paintings of Harriet and her work beautifully demonstrate to readers Harriet’s incredible will and perseverance under the most difficult circumstances. The narrow stairs of the lighthouse pose daunting in the middle of the night; the seas of Lake Michigan surge and lap at Harriet and the winds buffet her as she navigates the catwalk; and an exhausted Harriet stands at the stove melting lard to light the lens. Children interested in ships and the sea will find much here to excite their imaginations.

An author’s note about Harriet Colfax follows the text along with a glossary of terms used in the book.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1585369553

Meet Aimée Bissonette and learn more about her books and work on her website!

To view Eileen Ryan Ewen‘s portfolio, sketchbook, and other books, visit her website!

National Lighthouse Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lighthouse-coloring-sheet

Lighthouse Coloring Page

 

Lighthouses are a striking part of any seashore landscape. Here is a printable Lighthouse Coloring Page for you to decorate!