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.

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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.

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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

August 7 – National Lighthouse Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hello-lighthouse-cover

About the Holiday

For centuries along rocky shores, lighthouses have stood as sturdy beacons warning ships at sea of dangerous waters. In 1789, the United States Congress approved an Act for “the establishment and support of lighthouses, beacons, buoys and public piers and the commission of the first Federal lighthouse, the Cape Henry Lighthouse at Cape May, Virginia Beach.” Two hundred years later, the anniversary of this historic event was celebrated with another Congressional resolution sponsored by Senator John H. Chafee of Rhode Island, which designated August 7 as National Lighthouse Day. On this day, where possible, the country’s lighthouses are open to the public for viewing and tours. To celebrate today, visit a lighthouse if you live close by or read up on lighthouses and the work of brave lighthouse keepers throughout history.

Hello Lighthouse

By Sophie Blackhall

 

“On the highest rock of a tiny island at the edge of the world stands a lighthouse.” It is sturdy and shines its greeting far out to sea, “guiding the ships on their way.” “Hello! …Hello! …Hello!” The lighthouse has just gotten a new keeper. He begins his job by polishing the lens, refilling the oil, trimming the wick, and giving the “round rooms a fresh coat of sea-green paint.” He works at night too, making sure that the clockwork is wound to keep the lamp moving and writing in the logbook.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

To have his tea, the keeper must boil his water and for lunch or dinner he fishes for cod right from the lighthouse window. He wishes for someone to talk to—the special someone he writes letters to. He puts these letter in bottles and throws them into the sea. Outside, the wind whips up the waves and they crash against the lighthouse.

One day, the keeper spies the tender ship that is bringing him “oil and flour and pork and beans…and his wife.” The next day fog descends, thick and gray. Instead of a beam of light, a bell clangs to warn the ships away. But, still, a ship founders and breaks apart on the rocks. “Not a moment to lose, the keeper rows out. He pulls three sailors from the deep, black sea. He and his wife wrap them in warm blankets and serve them hot tea. The keeper makes note of all this in his log.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

In the winter, “the sea turns into a carpet of ice.” The keeper falls ill, and his wife tends to him as well as to the light. She runs up and down the spiral stairs to feed her husband broth and “chip ice off the lantern room windows.” At last his fever breaks. With warmer weather the ice melts, giving way to icebergs that float by going south. “Whales pass by on their journey north.”

Inside the lighthouse, the keeper’s wife is about to have a baby. She walks around and around, while “her husband boils water and helps her breath in—and out.” When the baby is born, the keeper notes the time and date in the logbook. “The sky erupts in swirls of green. Hello! …Hello! …Hello!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hello-lighthouse-new-baby

Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

The baby is a toddler when the tender brings an unexpected letter with the coast guard seal along with its regular supplies. After reading it, the keeper tends to the light “just as he’s always done,” but he “knows it’s not for long.” Through the telescope, the keeper and his wife watch the horizon for the arrival of the coast guard. When they come, they install a new light—one that runs by machine. There is “no lamp to fill, no wick to trim. The keeper’s work is done.”

He and his wife and little girl “pack their belongings into the boat and wave farewell to the gulls.” As they sail away on the ship, they look back and say “Good-bye, Lighthouse! Good-bye! …Good-bye! …Good-bye!” From its perch on the tiny island, the lighthouse sends out its constant beam through crashing waves and enveloping fog—”Hello! …Hello! …Hello?” From across the bay, a light from a little house “beams back. Hello! …Hello! …Hello! Hello, Lighthouse!”

An expensive and fascinating Author’s Note about lighthouses, the life of a lighthouse keeper, and how Hello Lighthouse came to be follows the text.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

As I read Hello Lighthouse, I saw myself as a child—a displaced New Englander growing up in Florida who loved everything about the craggy northern coastline and its history. I would have absolutely adored Sophie Blackall’s detailed and atmospheric book, and today’s young readers will too. The story of the light’s last keeper reveals the work and contemplations of the men and families dedicated to keeping shipping lanes safe. The weather and seasons—and ever-present logbook—are characters in their own right, just as they were for the conscientious and brave lighthouse keepers. Happy surprises—the arrival of the keeper’s wife and baby—will delight children as they add to the depth of the story.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Blackall’s stunning illustrations will swell readers’ hearts with the same intensity as the rolling seas.  A cutaway image of the lighthouse offers a realistic view of the five levels of living space accessed by a winding staircase that ultimately leads to the lens. Thrilling portrayals of choppy seas, wind-whipped crashing waves, pea-soup-thick fog, and sailors thrown from their wrecked ship will rivet children to the story. The cyclical nature of a keeper’s work mirrors the round rooms of the lighthouse and is represented throughout the story with circular, porthole-like snapshots of the keeper at work and round accents in the home, such as rugs, tables, and the quilt pattern on the couple’s bed. The final image of the family—the baby now a little girl—communicating with their old home anchors the story in history, togetherness, and a love of the sea.

Hello Lighthouse is a gorgeous, enlightening, and cozy read-aloud for home and classroom libraries that will enthrall young readers again and again.

Ages 4 – 9

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0316362382

To learn more about Sophie Blackall, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Lighthouse Day Activities

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Lighthouse Coloring Page

 

This lighthouse perched by the sea is a beautiful reminder of the days when a keeper lived and worked at his lighthouse. Give this printable page some color and shine!

Lighthouse Coloring Page

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-hello-lighthouse-cover

You can find Hello Lighthouse at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 7 – National Lighthouse Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-red-lighthouse-and-the-great-gray-bridge-cover

About the Holiday

Lighthouses have been protecting ships at sea since earliest times. From fires to gas lamps to electric lights, these warning signals have alerted sailors to reefs, heavy fog, and other dangerous conditions. Once operated by keepers who lived in or near the lighthouse, these beautiful structures are now mostly run automatically. Their color, iconic shapes, and intriguing lore make lighthouses a favorite site along the shoreline. If you live near the water, celebrate today by visiting a local lighthouse museum. If you are more landlocked, do a little research or read a good book about lighthouses.

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge

Written by Hildegarde H. Swift | Illustrated by Lynd Ward

 

The little lighthouse “was round and fat and red. It was fat and red and jolly. And it was VERY, VERY PROUD.” It stood between New York and the Hudson River, which carried boats of all kinds as it rolled on and on, looking for the sea. As the boats passed the little lighthouse, they talked to it. The big steamer had a deep booming voice while the narrow canoe spoke with a gentle whisper, and the tugboat always gave a cheery hello. The lighthouse did not answer during the day, but at night “a man came to tend the little red lighthouse.”

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Copyright Lynd Ward, 1942. Courtesy of Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers.

He opened the side door with a key from his jangling ring and “climbed its steep and winding stairs, up, up, up, to the very top. He took off the thick white cap that let it sleep by day.” He turned on the gas, and in a few minutes the lighthouse began to speak. “Flash! Flash! Flash! Look out! Watch me! Danger, danger, danger! Watch my rocks!” It felt very proud, knowing that the boats needed it to stay safe.

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Copyright Lynd Ward, 1042. Courtesy of Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers.

When a heavy fog descended, the keeper came and wound a big clock inside the lighthouse. The clock ran an iron bell that rang to warn the sailors who couldn’t see the lighthouse flashing. With two voices, the lighthouse felt even more proud. “I AM MASTER OF THE RIVER” it decided. But one day construction workers arrived. They dug and dug and then began building enormous girders that reached high into the sky. Then the men attached thin silver cables to the structure. When the cables were in place, the men celebrated. The little lighthouse didn’t know what was happening.

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Copyright Lynd Ward, 1042. Courtesy of Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers.

At night, the lighthouse continued to speak with its flashing and ringing voices. During the day, it watched as the huge gray thing grew larger and larger. It was wonderful and powerful, thought the lighthouse. Soon the bridge spanned the Hudson River from shore to shore. “It made the little red lighthouse feel very, very small.”

Then one night a great, bright light shown from the top of one of the bridge’s towers. “Flash! Turn! Flash!” it said in a loud voice. The lighthouse thought it was not needed anymore. Its light was so little while the bridge’s was so big. The lighthouse worried that the keeper would forget to turn its light on or that it would even be torn down. That night as it got darker and darker, the keeper did not come. The lighthouse felt strange.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-red-lighthouse-and-the-great-gray-bridge-storm

Copyright Lynd Ward, 1942. Courtesy of Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers.

That night a storm roiled the sea. It threatened the boats, and though they looked for the little red lighthouse, they couldn’t find it. There was no bell, and the fog was so thick the bridge light couldn’t shine through. The tug hit the rocks and was smashed. The bridge called down to the lighthouse, “‘Little brother, where is your light?’” The lighthouse was surprised. It told the bridge that it thought it wasn’t needed anymore. But the bridge explained that its light was to alert airplanes, not the ships far below it. “‘You are still master of the river,’” the bridge said. “‘Quick, let your light shine again.’”

But the lighthouse couldn’t turn itself on. It was afraid that the keeper would never come again, and that this was the end for it. Suddenly, the lighthouse heard jangling keys and running steps. It was the keeper hurrying to turn on the light. “‘This will never happen again,’” the man said. Now the lighthouse realized that is was needed. It sent its beam out into the dark night, and soon its bell began to toll too. The lighthouse was glad and even thought it knew it was little, it was “still VERY, VERY PROUD.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-red-lighthouse-and-the-great-gray-bridge-both-shining

Copyright Lynd Ward, 1942, Courtesy of Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt Books for Young Readers.

Hildegarde H. Swift’s classic story of the Hudson River lighthouse will enchant readers. The little red lighthouse makes a charming narrator for its tale that teaches kids about the importance of lighthouses while also showing them that even though one may be little, they can still have a profound effect on those around them. The pride and worries of the lighthouse will resonate with young readers, and they will cheer when the light is turned back on and the lighthouse regains its proper place. Swift’s lyrical language will keep children riveted to this fictionalized account of a historical event.

Lynd Ward’s evocative illustrations, rendered in red, blue, black, and white, are both strong and whimsical and seem as fresh today as they were when the book was first published. Features on the ships, lighthouse, and bridge make organic faces, personalizing these characters for children, while Ward’s depiction of the storm as a specter grasping at ships is striking and emphasizes the importance of the lighthouse.

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge is a multi-layered story for all readers. Children interested in lighthouses, bridges, boats, and construction will be especially drawn to this book.

Ages 4 – 7

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2002 | ISBN 978-0152045715 (hardcover); 978-0152045739 (paperback)

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.