The year I was nine years old my family lived in a little coastal town in southern North Carolina.
We had a lightship in that town.
It was no longer operational. It was moored in the harbor and outfitted as a museum. This was back in the 1970’s when safety details at museums were a little more relaxed. As a result we were allowed to climb all over the lightship and enjoyed exploring the ship in ways that would probably not be allowed today ?.
Once upon a time the ship was a critical part of keeping boats safe out in the ocean. My little town was near Cape Fear, a particularly dangerous part of the Atlantic coastline. Many people in the town were fishermen and they relied on these floating lightships to guide their way home.
Brian Floca’s picture book Lightship tells the story of just such a vessel! He takes you aboard and immerses you in the life on the boat.
When I read the book it felt awfully familiar to me. Turns out the author based the book in part on that very same boat I knew as a kid! That boat’s name was Frying Pan (Coast Guard designation LV 115 – “LV” for “Lightship Vessel”). On the copyright page of the book, the author shares that he talked with a man who actually served on Frying Pan! No wonder it felt so familiar to me! Frying Pan was eventually moved from the town and even sank at one point. She was raised a few years later and now has a current home on the Hudson River at Chelsea Piers in New York City. Learn a little more of its story here.
The illustrations for Lightship were done in watercolor and ink, and they have a beautiful translucent quality to them.
Lightship is a Caldecott Honor Book. The Caldecott Award is given for the best American picture book of the year. A short list of Honor Books are also named each year and to be a Caldecott Honor Book is a mark of significant achievement.
The book is full of fun tidbits to discover. It’s a great read aloud and then you can also go exploring through the pages with your kids to see what fun things you can find.
Award Winner: A Caldecott Honor Book
Author and Illustrator: Brian Floca
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division