Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Miss Colfax's Light

Miss Colfax's Light

Aimee Bissonette
Illustrator:  Eileen Ryan Ewen 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Sleeping Bear Press, 2016   ISBN: 978-1585369553

It is 1861 and Harriet Colfax, along with some furniture, a trunk or two, and a few other possessions, has arrived at the Michigan City Lighthouse. Needing to put a roof over her head, and the head of her friend Ann, Harriet has taken on the job of being the lighthouse keeper. Though she is small and looks “delicate,” and though she has no experience being a lighthouse keeper, Harriet takes to her new position with a will. She knows that the ships coming to Michigan City depend on her to keep them safe, and that Michigan City depends on the ships.

Every night Harriet fills the light with whale oil twice and polishes the Fresnel lens. At dawn she puts out the light and then spends the day cleaning and maintaining the lighthouse. Every night, without fail, the lamp in the lighthouse is lit and kept burning.

Ten years after she took the job at the lighthouse, a beacon is installed on one of the city piers.  Harriet is expected to walk down the 1,500 foot catwalk that is mounted on top of the pier every evening to light the beacon, even if waves are crashing over the narrow wooden platform.

A few years later the beacon is moved and now Harriet has to row a little boat across a creek, walk a ways and then walk down an even longer catwalk to get to the beacon. No matter how bad or dangerous the weather is, Harriet steadfastly does her duty and lights the beacon and the lighthouse lamp.

This wonderful nonfiction book tells the story of an extraordinary woman who took on a very difficult job, and who performed that job, often under very difficult circumstances, for many decades. Throughout the book beautiful artwork is paired with a carefully crafted text to give readers an engaging tale that takes us back in time.