Sunday, February 05, 2012

Children's Book Monday

Lighthouses have long fascinated my husband and I... their histories, their stoic beauty and steadfastness, the people who keep them. Hanging in my his office is a framed poster of this incredible scene. (Take a moment to look at all fifteen pictures (and a video!) at that site- such amazing captures of silent beacons surrounded by storms!) For us, the lighthouse creates a beautiful picture of God's protection during difficulty; we can be buffetted, surrounded, in mortal danger... and He stands firm and tall, guiding others to safety even as he shelters us.

So of course, any book with lighthouse in the title captures our attention! At our favorite used bookseller a year ago, as I sat on the floor surrounded by shelves of musty children's books, several stacks climbing higher around me, I came across this hidden gem...

Birdie's Lighthouse
written by Deborah Hopkinson
illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root

Bertha (Birdie) Holland keeps a diary that her Papa gave to her before he went to sea, and each entry tells her story. When her father returns, he is chosen as the new lighthouse keeper for Turtle Island, and the family gathers to their new home. Birdie is lonely in this isolated place; the "Smearin' In", as the old-timers call it, bringing dark fog that makes her long for meadows and flowers- and no sea wind to blow them away.

Birdie's Papa teaches her how to polish the reflectors and trim the wicks, but when he takes sick after staying up all night during a storm to keep the lamps burning, someone must watch over the light; proudly, she enters her name into her diary for the first time as "Bertha Holland, Keeper's Daughter."

Her vigilance lasts over several days, as long as the storm does, and long enough to guide someone dear to their hearts... home.

Deborah Hopkinson is a beloved author in this home; she is especially gifted at historical children's books. We highly recommend Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt and A Boy Called Dickens. Kimberly Root's illustrations are simple and expressive, and when I read that she had also done the artwork for a version of Understood Betsy, I was so happy! What a match- that story, her pictures... perfect.

We so enjoyed learning some new seafaring quotes and terms throughout the story- and at the end of the book is a beautiful short biography of four real-life light keepers who saved lives and kept the light burning for many, many years. One in particular, Abigail Burgess Grant, who lived on an isolated island called Matinicus Rock, kept the island's two towers lit for four stormy weeks while her father was away. She married a lightkeeper and lived her whole life in lighthouses- and at the end of her life, simply wrote, It has almost seemed to me that the light was part of myself.

May we all endeavor to say the same at the end of our lives... that the Light was part of ourselves.

Happy Reading!

3 fellow travelers shared:

Anonymous said...

Lovely. Would like to show the lighthouses to everyone here, with my hubby; memorable. warmly from Mary Brooke

Dayna said...

Thank you for your great funny coincidence I randomly grabbed that one off the shelf at our local library a couple weeks ago!
We've really enjoyed it and I just picked up a history/activity book titled Lighthouses for Kids...History, Science, and Lore with 21 Activities. Lots of research and photos of lightkeepers and their families.

Kristin said...

Have you ever read Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek : a tall, thin tale (introducing his forgotten frontier friend) by Deborah Hopkinson or Stagecoach Sal ( We love both!!

Oh...and we got your book exchange letter in the mail today!

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