Keeper of the Light, Janet Barkhouse’s newest picture book, tells the story of eleven-year-old Sara Wolfe, who works for a lighthouse keeper on an island off the coast of Nova Scotia. Since her father’s death at sea, Sara’s family needs the money she makes from cleaning, cooking, and doing farm chores for the Moshers, the middle-aged couple who tend the lighthouse. Sara is looking forward to a visit home in honour of her twelfth birthday, when Mr. Mosher suddenly falls ill and Mrs. Mosher must take him to the mainland to see a doctor. Not only is Sara’s visit postponed, she is left alone on Cook Island for the first time, with the Moshers counting on her to look after the lighthouse as a storm approaches.
Based on the real experiences of children who worked at lighthouses in the early twentieth century, Keeper of the Light highlights the incredible tenacity of both body and spirit required from these young people in these positions. As Sara hauls coal to build a fire in the cookstove, milks a feisty cow, cleans and lights the lighthouse lamp, cranks a fog horn in the pouring rain, and rows a dory into the crashing surf to rescue a stranded sailor, readers will be impressed by the physical strength and perseverance she displays and moved by her understanding of how many people’s lives depend on her doing these jobs well. Thérèse Cilia’s gorgeous watercolour illustrations, including the grey, stormy waves on the endpapers, complement Barkhouse’s detailed text to show both the beauty and the power of the sea and sky that surround Sara.
Although some readers might wish for a historical note to learn more about children who worked in lighthouses, Keeper of the Light is a fascinating story about a determined, likeable girl, and is highly recommended
Keeper of the Light
- ISBN 13: 978-1-4595-0464-6