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Hello Lighthouse

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Hello Lighthouse Book Poster Image
Unique, engaging look at the life of a lighthouse keeper.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows what it takes to operate and live in a lighthouse. Shows how lighthouses save ships. 

Positive Messages

Working alone can be isolating. Work can be easier when you have backup and work as a team (and have someone to do the job when you're sick). Love gives you comfort in hard and lonely times. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lighthouse keeper is hardworking, dedicated. His wife is very capable, fills in for him when he's sick, doing all necessary tasks and keeping the log. 

Violence & Scariness

Lighthouse keeper rescues shipwrecked sailors.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Hello Lighthouse is an artful picture book by author-illustrator Sophie Blackall (Finding Winnie) that won the 2019 Caldecott Medal. It shows the life of a lighthouse keeper and his family in a bygone era. It's both straightforward in showing the everyday tasks involved and dramatic in revealing the isolated life of living and working alone. It also shows the comfort he feels when his wife comes and takes care of him and the lighthouse (when he's sick) and the joy when she gives birth to their baby. Cutaway views of the lighthouse add to readers' understanding of lighthouse life, and they learn more details in an "About Lighthouses" section. 

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What's the story?

HELLO LIGHTHOUSE begins with a bearded man who arrives at the lighthouse on a tiny island to start his job as the new lighthouse keeper. We see all the tasks he completes each day, including warning ships of danger and rescuing shipwrecked sailors, always keeping his log. He writes letters to his wife on the mainland, and one day she arrives on a ship that's bringing supplies. When he gets sick, she takes care of both him and the lighthouse until he's healthy again. He cares for her when she gives birth to their first baby. Eventually, a mechanical light puts him out of a job.

Is it any good?

This unique, intimate view of what lighthouses and lighthouse keepers do envelops readers in a distinctive world beautifully illustrated by author-illustrator Sophie Blackall. The vertical orientation of the book itself echoes the lighthouse shape, and cutaway interior views give readers a vivid understanding of the small spaces and spiral staircases that confine the lighthouse keeper's days. It's a captivating look at a rare and now obsolete hands-on profession. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it's like to live in a lighthouse, as shown in Hello Lighthouse. Does it look like fun or seem too hard? What might happen to boats if there was no lighthouse? 

  • How does the shape of the book -- tall and narrow like a lighthouse -- help tell the story and give you a feel for what it's like to live in a lighthouse? 

  • How does the author show movement of the ocean and the wind? 

Book details

For kids who love picture books and family stories

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