Review of Hello Lighthouse

Hello Lighthouse
by Sophie Blackall; illus. by the author
Primary    Little, Brown    48 pp.    g
4/18    978-0-316-36238-2    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-316-36237-5    $9.99

Blackall’s (Finding Winnie, rev. 9/15) picture book opens as a new keeper arrives to take up his solitary duties at a lighthouse “on the highest rock of a tiny island at the edge of the world”; it ends with his departure, machinery and automation having made his job obsolete. In between we are treated to a series of snapshots of lighthouse-keeper life — a mix of routine (tending the oil lamp, updating the logbook, household maintenance chores) and excitement (rescuing shipwrecked sailors; welcoming the arrival of his wife and the birth of their child). Much care has been put into the book’s production, from the appropriately tall, narrow trim size to the choice of pen and watercolor for the artistic medium. Blackall’s gorgeous illustrations are a mix of homey detail (especially in the interior cutaways of the lighthouse) and spectacular scenery (as the seasons pass, we see stormy nights and foggy days; northern lights; icebergs and whales). Throughout all changes, the lighthouse stands steadfast, sending out its constant beacon, echoed in the text’s refrain: “Hello! Hello! Hello!” Circles are a repeated motif, with frequent circular insets into larger illustrations; with the round rooms and rugs of the lighthouse. An extensive and lively author’s note provides needed context for many of the events in the story (apparently some lighthouse 
keepers really did “mail” their letters ashore via bottles tossed into the sea!).

From the March/April 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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