The lighthouse stands on the high, smooth rock of the island. The light shines from dusk until dawn to protect those at sea.
My father is the lighthouse keeper.
Our family lives in the lighthouse keeper’s cottage.
Louisa and her family live on a little island off the NSW coast, for their father is the lighthouse keeper. Theirs is an isolated life, in a remote location. Louisa, second daughter in a family of four narrates a day in their life. The day begins with chores and schooling, and more chores. They don’t see much of their father because he works all night keeping the light shining to sea. On this day, he cannot sleep long, and will need to be extra vigilant as a storm closes in. But in the meantime, there is also free time to enjoy the wildness, the seals and penguins, the sounds of their world. Louisa accompanies them on her tin whistle. When jobs are done, dinner is finished, they gather to share music. Mother plays the piano, Dad the fiddle and Louisa the tin whistle. A wrecked boat brings extras to the island, drawn first by the light, then by the music. Fittingly, presentation is portrait and the cover design increases this notion of height.
‘The Light’ documents a day in the life of a lighthouse man and his family from the perspective of a young girl. The first person narrative brings the reader close while the illustrations offer more details. The clothing suggest an earlier time, as does the formality of ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’. Illustrations are charcoal and soft pastels and also introduce a nostalgia for another, simpler time. Most are framed, as if looking at photos, and some are set on music scores, bringing to life the sounds of the island. ‘The Light’ shows not only another way of living (in isolation and self-sufficiency) but also the dangers of the coastline and the role lighthouses and their keepers played in keeping sailors safe. Endpapers feature diagrams of a lighthouse and cottage. Recommended for lower- to mid-primary readers.
The Light, Jo Oliver New Frontier Publishing 2013 ISBN: 9780921928413
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author