cover image Birdie's Lighthouse

Birdie's Lighthouse

Deborah Hopkinson. Atheneum Books, $15 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-689-81052-7

Inspired by stories of real 19th-century lighthouse heroines, this atmospheric book uses a diary format to shape a portrait of a brave and likable girl. The tall-format volume, slender and graceful much like a lighthouse itself, whisks readers to the rocky Maine coast. There, on tiny Turtle Island, a 10-year-old girl takes up residence in a lighthouse when her father is appointed keeper in 1855. Born in a seaside cottage on a night the waves roared ""awful loud,"" the girl has been told that she is ""kin to the ocean,"" although her diary entries, which sensitively recount the difficulties she faces in adjusting to a harsh life of isolation, express some initial skepticism. Her dedication to her new life is realized in a dramatic episode in which, filling in for her ill father, she keeps the whale-oil lamps burning through a stormy northeaster so that her brother's fishing boat can reach harbor safely. Fine, meticulous strokes and a preponderance of shadowy blues and grays give Root's (When the Whippoorwill Calls) pen-and-ink and watercolor pictures the look of etchings. The accomplished art underscores the immediacy of Hopkinson's (Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt) narrative and its careful attention to period and setting. While the text is unlikely to be mistaken for the voice of an actual young girl, its nuances of feeling and historical detail shine through. Ages 4-9. (May)