Caldecott Review


Blackall, Sophie. Hello Lighthouse. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2018. ISBN 9780316362382


Hello Lighthouse is the story of one lighthouse and its last “keeper,” a man whose job is to make sure the lighthouse lamp is wound up tight, its oil is refilled, and the events of the day are written in the logbook. Time passes in the lighthouse and, with it, many events—the arrival of the keeper’s wife, the rescue of three wrecked sailors from a storm, the birth of a daughter, and—finally—the invention of a lighthouse machine that needs no keeper, causing husband, wife, and daughter to say goodbye to their beloved lighthouse and find a new home on the shore.


Hello Lighthouse is not your average picture book. Unlike such favorites as Corduroy or How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Sophie Blackall leaves her characters nameless and without a book-long problem to solve. However, while these omissions might make another picture book fall flat, in Sophie Blackall’s deft hands, Hello Lighthouse shines from its promontory station as a wonderful children’s book.

What makes Hello Lighthouse truly exceptional is its pictures. Beautiful Chinese ink and watercolor illustrations accompany and amplify textual descriptions—the colors of the sunrise reflect on the water as the text declares that “from dusk to dawn, the lighthouse beams” and the lighthouse becomes a ghostly silhouette when “the fog makes everything disappear.” But the illustrations go far beyond simple textual amplifications. They invite curious young readers to uncover hidden gems in the intricate details of each spread, like the words of the letter written to “dearest Alice” or the weather remarks written in the logbook of the lighthouse. And images are drawn from unique, cinematic perspectives, such as the eye-level illustration that invites readers to greet the lighthouse from across the shore with husband, wife, and child. Young readers are sure to come away from this book full of a little more imagination and a little more wonder.


2019 Caldecott Medal

Publisher’s Weekly Best Picture Books of 2018 Pick

New York Times Notable Children’s Books of 2018 Pick

From Publisher’s Weekly: “This graceful account celebrates a lost era and vocation—the sometimes lonely, sometimes dangerous job of keeping a lighthouse. . . . A jewel of a creation.”

From School Library Journal: “A lovely picture book, recommended for all libraries. A delightful bedtime read perfect for one on one sharing.”

From Booklist: “Blackall’s charmingly old-fashioned art style is beautifully matched to this nostalgia-rich story, which imbues an antiquated place with warmth and wonder.”


Read with other award-winning books illustrated by Sophie Blackall:

  • Mattick, Lindsay, and Sophie Blackall (illustrator). Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear. ISBN 0316324906
  • Blackall, Sophie. If You Come to Earth. ISBN 145213779X

Read with other books about lighthouses such as:

  • Armitage, Rhonda, and David Armitage (illustrator). The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch. ISBN 0590551752
  • Hopkinson, Deborah, and Kimberly B. Root (illustrator). Birdie’s Lighthouse. ISBN 0689835299

Use as an introduction to a weather unit with other weather books such as:

  • Rabe, Tish, and Aristides Ruiz (illustrator). Oh Say Can You Say What’s the Weather Today? ISBN 0375822763
  • Gibbons, Gail. Weather Words and What They Mean. ISBN 0823441903

Use as an introduction to an inventions unit. Point out that a new light is installed in the lighthouse. Brainstorm with the children about things they want to invent. Then, ask them to draw a picture of their inventions.

*Note—This book review was created as an assignment for a course at Texas Woman’s University.