Halifax-based Formac Publishing has produced a beautiful piece of historical fiction (based on the reminiscences of actual lighthouse workers from the time) that focuses on the mid-1920s. The protagonist, eleven-year-old Sara Wolfe, works at the Cook Island Lighthouse off the coast of Nova Scotia and is expecting to go on holiday at home, but then events intervene. Instead she finds herself alone on the island and responsible for the running of the lighthouse during a maritime gale. As historical fiction goes, this is a good yarn for the intended audience. Readers get a feel for the everyday tasks that a child would be expected to perform back then (from priming water pumps to cleaning the kerosene-based light in the lantern room) and the story emphasizes how Sara successfully runs the light station by herself.
Accompanied by colourful illustrations on each page, this work is suitable for read aloud exercises for younger students, and it could serve as a platform for comparative discussions about what household chores and outside jobs young people today are expected/allowed to perform. Certainly it would fit the expectations for Ontario’s Social Studies grade one curriculum “Heritage and Identity: Our Changing Roles and Responsibilities,” or Alberta’s grade five general outcome “Histories and Stories of Ways of Life in Canada.”
Review by George Sheppard