Book Review: The Lighthouse Christmas by Toni Buzzeo
Review by Susan K.S. Grigsby
One of the perks of doing a little extra for the library profession here in Georgia is the chance to meet some really interesting and wonderful people. And so it was 2 years ago, as a member of the COMO XXI committee, I met author/educator/librarian Toni Buzzeo. I had the pleasure of driving her to the Atlanta airport from Columbus at the conclusion of the conference and we chatted, sharing stories and anecdotes for the entire trip. We have kept in touch ever since and I was delighted when she asked me to take a look at her new book The Lighthouse Christmas to review for all of you. Did she know that I am a Christmas freak? Did my kids tell her they think it looks like the North Pole threw up in my house every year? Did she suspect that I still have fond memories of throwing gobs of thin, metallic tinsel strands on our puny tree while my mother stood behind me begging “One string at a time!”? No, I don’t think so … just call it serendipity.
The Lighthouse Christmas opens with Frances and her little brother Peter, children of the widowed lighthouse keeper, anticipating Christmas. Frances is older and aware that since her mother’s passing and her father’s acceptance of a post at a very isolated and lonely lighthouse, Christmas will not be the buttery sugar cookies and family Christmas carols and presents from Santa that she and Peter remember. Storms have kept the supply boats away and the thought of leaving her Papa alone on Christmas while she and Peter visit their Aunt Martha on the mainland makes Frances feel “like a boat moored to a dock.” When a heavy storm hits, Frances must keep the flame lit in the lighthouse while Papa goes out to rescue a fisherman from his upturned boat. Both of the children are sad to realize they won’t have the kind of Christmas they had hoped for and make the best of it by celebrating with some makeshift decorations, simple gifts, and helping the rescued fisherman feel welcomed into their family. And then, well yes, Virginia… the magic of Christmas happens in a most wonderful, believable, and heartwarming way.
The illustrations are beautifully simple with rich colors and nostalgic touches that put the reader into the time and place of Toni’s story. Frances is given such expression and personality with just a few pen strokes. Peter is drawn with an obvious warmth and tenderness. All in all, I believe this book will become one of those classic stories that remind us of what Christmas is really about: families, caring hearts, and the pure joy of giving. Have a hankie ready if you plan to read this aloud. This one is going into my personal collection…
The Lighthouse Christmas by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter; published by Dial Books for Young Readers. ISBN 978-0-8037-3053-3