Hello Lighthouse (Sophie Blackall)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall – a beautiful, understated look at the life of a lighthouse and the family that inhabits it.

On a tiny rock island at the edge of the world, a beautiful lighthouse was built to last forever, the light welcoming seafarers with a “Hello! Hello! Hello!”. The new keeper arrives and throws himself into the simple, repetitive, yet contented daily life of the lighthouse. He maintains the mechanics, spruces up the living areas, writes letters to his wife (sent via message-in-a-bottle), always noting his activities in the lighthouse log. To his joy, a supply ship soon brings his wife to join him on the island, to share love and care of the lighthouse. Some days are different: the keeper and his wife rescue sailors from a wreck, work through illness and harsh weather, and welcome their baby into the world. Years later, the keeper gets a letter: the lighthouse will be retrofitted to automation, and he will be the last keeper. The family packs and sadly leaves, but though the lighthouse now stands empty, its family has not gone far – they now watch over their first home from shore as it once watched over them, lighting a lamp to say hello.

Quiet yet stunning. The story is a heartwarming look into a family and bygone lighthouse life, spanning across years and filled with moments both joyful and exhilarating, then simple and real. You fall in love with the keeper, his wife, and their daughter – and by the end, the lighthouse itself. It becomes a fourth character, so endearing that when the family must leave and the lighthouse stands empty, it’s “Hello?” seems heartbreakingly lonely. It honestly brought a tear to my eye, and I was happy for the uplifting ending. The art is stunningly detailed, using cutaways and unique perspectives to always keep the house feeling open and filled with love. The length was great, and JJ loved it too. Unique, moving, and Baby Bookworm approved!

A House That Once Was (Julie Fogliano)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A House That Once Was, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Lane Smith, an interesting examination of what makes a house into a home.

Two children are exploring the woods one day when they come upon a derelict house. Its path is overgrown, its paint is cracked and fading, and its windows are broken, the last providing entry for the curious kids. Inside, they find evidence of a life once lived there: faded photos, dusty kitchen contents, even a still-made bed. They speculate as to who might have once inhabited the home: a lady who painted squirrels in the garden? A little boy who made model planes? A girl who loved to dance? And what became of these people? The children return home after their expedition, and reflect on the house that was once a home – for a house is only truly be a home because a person makes it so.

This is definitely an intriguing story, and it has it’s ups and downs for me. As a mom, I think I got hung up on the idea of two children exploring a crumbling house unsupervised, starting by climbing in through a shattered window that still had shards of glass; I realize that it’s a kid’s book, and begs a suspension of disbelief, but it still made me clench. Also, there was something faintly bothersome about the way the story left the speculative former family of the home, wandering the woods because they couldn’t find their keys. Again, it’s a figment of a fictional child’s imagination, but it felt a little unsatisfying. However, past those two trifles, there is a beautifully illustrated meditation on home, things, and how we leave traces of ourselves in both. The text flows like a gentle stream, and JJ seemed very soothed by it. It’s a good length, and overall a very pretty book, so we’re calling this one Baby Bookworm approved!

The Blue Songbird (Vern Kousky)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is The Blue Songbird by Vern Kousky, a wonderfully touching story about learning how to find yourself.

A little songbird wakes up every morning to the beautiful songs of her sisters. She wishes her song could be as sweet, but she can’t seem to find the right notes. Her mother encourages her, though, telling her that she must find the song that is hers alone, and she must have the courage to seek it out. So the songbird leaves home for the first time, flying across land and oceans to find her song. She asks all the birds along the way for guidance: a helpful crane, a seemingly wise owl, even snowbound penguins. She sees snow-capped mountains and desert plains, flying around the entire world on her quest. At last, a clever crow points her in the direction of a golden island where her song can be found. But when the little songbird arrives, she finds the island is, in fact, her home. Disappointed, she wings toward her family. As she opens her beak to tell them of her adventures, she finds that what comes out aren’t words, but her own special song, singing of the incredible journey she’s taken… and the sweetness of returning home.

I LOVED this one. The metaphor of finding oneself in travel and experience, and the message that home will be there for you when you return, is beautifully woven into a story that stresses the values of courage, self-relience, and family. I loved that the ultimate message was that who we are is made equally of where we come from AND what we choose to be. The art is lovely, using muted colors and simple lines to create a world of possibilities for the little bird. The length is perfect, and JJ adored it. This is a timeless story told in beautiful style, and it’s emphatically Baby Bookworm approved!

This House, Once (Deborah Freedman)

Hello, everyone! Today’s book is This House, Once by Deborah Freedman, a dreamy exploration of the pieces of a home, and where things come from.

This door was once an oak tree, tall and strong and stretching to the sky. The stones of the foundation were once deep underground, and the bricks were once wet clay. Each piece of a house comes from somewhere and something in nature, elements being shaped and molded to fit together like the pieces of a puzzle. Then, once a house is a house, the dreams of its inhabitants make it a home.

This was a very peaceful, meditative sort of story that encourages children to think about where things come from, and how the pieces of our lives fit together to form the whole. The text begins matter-of-fact, moving toward the existential then back again, accompanied by hazy, serene art that creates a very soothing atmosphere. The length is just fine, and JJ enjoyed it, especially the addition of the animals throughout that follow the origins of the home’s materials. This would be a great one for a calming bedtime read, or just to encourage mindfulness and imagination in children about their own home. Baby Bookworm approved!

The Bear And The Piano (David Litchfield)

Hello, everyone! Today, we read The Bear And The Piano by David Litchfield, a gorgeous and touching fable about the courage it takes to leave home, and the courage it can take to return.

A young bear, wandering through the woods of his home, finds a piano in a clearing. It’s large and wooden and makes a horrible sound when he plays it. But he keeps trying, and as the years so by, he becomes a talented pianist. The other bears love his music, and gather round when he plays the songs he’s written about the wider world he hopes to explore. One day, he is discovered by some humans who offer to bring him back to the city so he can perform, and while he is scared to leave home, he wants to see the world. So he sets off and, in no time, becomes a famous musician beloved the world over. Yet when he decides to return home for a visit, he is scared once again: will his friends be mad that he left? Is home still home for him?

This was such a beautiful story, and it had such a wonderful ending. Leaving home is something we all must face, and this book perfectly captured the emotions that surround it while imparting the timeless message that home will always be a soft place to land. The art was beautiful, instilling a sense of wildness into both the forest and the concrete jungle, and it was a good length for young readers. We loved this one. Baby Bookworm approved!