Caldecott Medalist Lights Up New Picture Book

Lynn: “Like all sensible people, I have always loved lighthouses,” Sophie Blackall explains in the author’s note of Hello Lighthouse (2018). I agree completely! Whose imagination isn’t captured by the sight of the lighthouses that stand tall along the coasts of our oceans and Great Lakes?

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall

Blackall relates her discovery at a flea market of an old print showing the cutaway interior of a lighthouse. Her imagination took light and she “delved into research,” imagining the lives of the people who worked and made their homes in the tiny rooms. Happily, the result is this fascinating and evocative picture book.

The story begins with the front end-pages, showing the mostly blank pages of the new keeper’s Journal of Lighthouse. In Blackall’s story, the young lighthouse-keeper carries out his many jobs, but misses his wife. When she arrives to stay, readers learn about the daily lives of the keepers’ families and of the many challenges and rewards the job involved. Like lighthouses everywhere, this story’s lighthouse eventually has its oil light replaced by an electric light, and is then automated, thus eliminating the lighthouse keepers’ job. Fortunately for all lighthouse buffs, this gorgeous picture book captures the story behind the lights for today’s readers.


Cindy: I’m reassured to know that I am “sensible.” Long a fan of the romantic notion of a lighthouse-keeper’s life, I have explored many of the lighthouses along the coasts of the Great Lakes, and climbed some of their narrow, spiral staircases, including the Little Sable Point Lighthouse on Lake Michigan pictured here.

Blackall captures the romantic beauty of the lighthouse-keeper’s life, but also its dangers, tedium, and loneliness. Double-page spreads of murky fog and storm-tossed seas rendered in ink and watercolor illustrate the need for lighthouses. The circular rooms are reflected throughout the book in rope-lined portals to interior scenes and in other round design elements. But the water! Oh, I could look at Blackall’s water scenes with their geometric patterns, brilliant use of color, and varying styles for hours, much like I do whenever I am near the real thing. Stunning!

Read this beautiful book and then have children design their own lighthouses. What would they look like? Challenge them to draw the cutaway view. What would they find necessary to live in a lighthouse? Who would they want to come visit them? Hello. . . hello!



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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