August 7 – National Lighthouse Day

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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!”

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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 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1408357392 (Paperback, Orchard Books, 2019)

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

National Lighthouse Day Activities

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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.

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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

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You can find Hello Lighthouse at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 9 – National Reading Month World So Wide Book Tour

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About the Holiday

Starting off with Read across America Day on March 2nd, the month celebrates reading, its joys, and benefits. When you read with your child or children every day you’re helping them develop the language and literacy skills that will promote future success in school and beyond. Even if your child isn’t talking yet, they’re listening and learning about their language as you read to them. Older kids also love being read to, and setting aside time to read together builds strong bonds that can last a lifetime. The month is officially marked with special events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and communities that bring authors, illustrators, and educators together with kids. 

I received a copy of World So Wide from Two Lions for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Two Lions in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

World So Wide

Written by Alison McGhee | Illustrated by Kate Alizadeh

 

As a new mom and dad welcome their baby into the world, they marvel that somewhere in the world a child is the “youngest person alive” just “opening their eyes” to…what? To something outside or to “the love in someone’s eye?” Will the first thing they hear be tender words, the first touch a warm embrace?

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Image copyright Kate Alizadeh, 2020, text copyright Alison McGhee, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Then with wonder these new parents address their own new baby—the youngest person in the world whose first sight was their smile. As their baby grows, they tell them there was “so much you wanted to say, / so much we wanted to hear, / so many firsts along the way.” And looking forward into their son’s bright future, they hope that one day the “newest person in the world / will open their eyes to see / a grown-up you smiling back at them.”

This mom and dad, their hearts bursting with love, tell their little one that when he has a baby of his own, he too will “hold that baby tight” and reveal to them a “life that’s bright and true” just as they will do for him—who is their new world.

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Image copyright Kate Alizadeh, 2020, text copyright Alison McGhee, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Alison McGhee puts into words that heart-swelling awe new parents feel for their babies as they contemplate this new life in the world, all the firsts to come, and the journey they will share with their child into the future. Her lyrical story offers adults gentle assurances of unending love to share with their little ones. As the babies grow into toddlerhood and begin navigating the worlds of school and activities, the open-ended text invites adults and kids to engage in explorations of what they see, hear, feel, and think, creating a new experience with each reading.

Wispy, dreamy, and full of movement, Kate Alizadeh’s vibrant illustrations are moving snapshots of those moments that mean so much—gazing into a newborn’s eyes, cradling that tiny body in your arms, and watching as they become their own person. Lovely spreads of rolling fields dotted with wildflowers mirror the wider world while projections of the baby’s future see a young man with a child of his own living in the city and exploring the seaside.

A warm and gentle hug in a book, World So Wide would make a touching baby shower or new baby gift as well as a sweet addition to home libraries for parents, grandparents, and other caregivers to share their deep love for their child.

Ages Baby – 6

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542006330

About the Author

Alison McGhee is the author of many highly acclaimed works. Her children’s books include the #1 New York Times bestseller Someday, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds; the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award–winning Bink & Gollie, cowritten with Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Tony Fucile; and the Christopher Award–winning Firefly Hollow, illustrated by Christopher Denise. Her novels for adults include Pulitzer Prize nominee Shadow Baby and Never Coming Back. She lives in Minnesota, Vermont, and California. Learn more at www.alisonmcghee.com. You can connect with Alison on Instagram | Twitter

About the Illustrator

Kate Alizadeh is the author-illustrator of Quiet and the illustrator of That Is Actually MY Blanket, Baby! by Angie Morgan. Her distinctive hand lettering appears on the covers of Unboxed and Second Best Friend by Non Pratt, and her black-and-white illustrations are featured in Proud: Stories, Poetry and Art on the Theme of Pride, compiled by Juno Dawson. A graduate of Falmouth University, she is currently based in Northern Ireland. Learn more at www.katealizadeh.net. You can connect with Kate on Instagram | Twitter

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You can find World So Wide at these booksellers

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