25 Days – Book 10: Hello Lighthouse

One of my very favorite books of the year – another beautiful story, in word and illustration – you’ll ooh and ahh over this one from its size, to every detail that surrounds each illustration. Come say Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall, 2018.

What is it about?

“On the highest rock of a tiny island
at the edge of the world stands a lighthouse.”

And so the tale begins of a faithful lighthouse, whose beam is ever sending out hellos. A new keeper arrives to tend the light. He lives in the beautiful, circular lighthouse, giving the walls new paint, trimming the wick, and keeping the logbook. It is a steady, lonely existence. Time moves past, letters are sent, and storms come and go. 

Inside lighthouse view on the left showing intricate details of rooms all the way to the top. The right shows the man walking in and up the stairs and sitting at a table looking at the moon.

And then his wife arrives! They are two, alone, on the tiny island, in the steadfast lighthouse. They care for sailors when disaster strikes. They care for each other when sickness calls. And the lighthouse cares for them, guarding from the cold, and storms, and winds. The logbook is faithfully kept, even to the minute their baby arrives in the lighthouse on the tiny island. The family lives, and works, and cares together; all while keeping the lighthouse and the logbook up.

The lighthouse is in a very wave-filled storm, the man stands at the top with the light shining brightly.

And then comes the day when technology has advanced, and times change. The lighthouse must bid goodbye to its faithful family, but only for a moment. It’s job is to say “Hello!” always. 

The man is looking through a spyglass at an incoming ship. Then he is helping his wife come off the ship and they are dancing together in the lighthouse.

Why I picked it

I have long been a fan of Sophie Blackall’s work. She is a masterful storyteller, and an even more brilliant illustrator. Her patterns, pencil work, soft textures, and engaging layouts continue to astound me with every new book. I never knew I cared so much about lighthouses, until I met this book. The images are achingly beautiful. I love the repeated circles in the ripples of the water, the structure of the lighthouse, the vignettes of illustrations atop illustrations. 

The man is ill in bed while the wife tends him. The wife is running down the spiral stairs with items.

But it goes deeper than the beauty in the illustrations. The tenderness of this story is so charming. There is an extensive author’s note in the back of the book about how Sophie became fascinated with the idea of living in a lighthouse and all the extensive research she did about keepers and lighthouses and their inner workings. She was thorough in her research and the book shows it; for she was able to learn and know all of this, and then tuck that in her pocket as she wrote a lovely story about a keeper and his little family. The story doesn’t drown in mundane details, but uses the accumulated knowledge about the lighthouse life to inform and create the backdrop for this almost romantic story. I was enveloped by the story from inside the dust jacket, to the very back end paper. It is a treasure.

The spread is a circle with the pregnant woman walking around and the man supporting her.

Who will love this?

It is quite rare for a picture book protagonist to be an adult. I suppose a building being a character is a bit more common, but the charm of this book is undeniable. I was smitten upon first sight. And, the book is long, and quiet, and slow to read. And yet, my children adore it. I have no problem recommending this book to anyone. Beauty knows no limits. Great for detail-individuals. Great for history lovers. Great for anyone.

The lighthouse is in the bottom left corner, watching a ship leave in the smooth water.

Bonus Gift Pairings

If you are longing for a painted whale rock as spotted in some of these book photos, you’ll have to stalk Sophie Blackall’s Instagram feed until she does more for a local bookshop. That is the best pairing of all of course and one of my now prized possessions. I also really like this lighthouse stacking blocks toy. So fun and colorful! Another idea is to get a lighthouse travel logbook and become an observer yourself. And I’m incredibly partial to a whale bookend, as it is lovely and certainly fits many of the found details in the book.

Pick this one up, you won’t be sorry. And see you tomorrow for the next book from this year in my 25 Days of Favorite New Picture Books countdown!

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