Lighthouse Girl, by Dianne Wolfer

My name is Charlie. They say you are sending messages to loved ones. I don’t have any loved ones. Can I send a message to you?
What is your name?
That is a pretty name. Are you pretty. I bet you are. What colour are your eyes?
Mine are hazel. I’ll send you a postcard when we get there. Wish me luck.
Good luck, Charlie. Godspeed. Return safely.

It is 1914 and, from her island home off Albany, Fay Howe watches troopships arrive in Albany, waiting to depart for service in the Great War. Fay is a lighthouse keeper’s daughter and so knows semaphore and morse code. When the soldiers on the ships see her and signal her, she answers. Soon, they are semaphoring messages for their loved ones, which Fay than telegraphs on their behalf. But one young man has no family, and, although they never meet, he and Fay become friends.

Lighthouse Girl is an amazing blend of diary, narrative, picture book and scrapbook, based on a true story. Fay Howe lived on Breaksea Island and signalled the ships departing for the war. Afterwards, numerous postcards arrived from the Middle East addressed to “the little girl on Breaksea Island”.

Lighthouse Girl provides a gentle presentation of the coming of age of a girl during the hardships of war. The addition of Charlie also shows us how lonely Fay’s life is – growing up on an isolated island means she has never had a friend, and so her bond with Charlie is special, even though they never meet. Fay is young but she is strong. She runs the house for her father and the second lighthouse keeper, shooting rabbits when food is scarce, and doing her part for the war effort by knitting and writing letters. Child readers will find Fay’s life an interesting contrast to their own.

Author Dianne Wolfer’s text is gorgeously complemented by photos, charts, newspaper clippings, postcards and lovely charcoal illustrations from Brian Simmonds.

This hardcover offering is a treasure.

Lighthouse Girl

Lighthouse Girl, by Dianne Wolfer, with illustrations by Brian Simmonds
Fremantle Press, 2009

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.