Sophie Blackall, Caldecott Award winner for Hello, Lighthouse, already had the crowd for the 2019 Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival in the palm of her hand as she spoke, even before she had her assistants unroll the scroll across the stage. I’m not good at estimating the size of her painting or the numbers of the fish, but it took several people to hold her picture of the sea with its multitudes of swimming fish. I joined the crowd in a chorus of, “Oooooohhh!”
The picture recalled the setting for the book which won the award given to the illustrator for the most distinguished picture book of 2018. Hello, Lighthouse tells the story in poetry of a lighthouse keeper and his family, ending when a machine runs a brand-new light with “no lamp to fill, no wick to trim. The keeper’s work is done.” The keeper and his family move away, but the lighthouse lingers on with it’s “Hello! . . . Hello! . . . Hello!” Taking in both the story and the detailed paintings will offer the child, adult, or both together who read the story, more pleasant moments than one would usually think of giving a picture book. The following picture, which took me quite a bit of time to select, is my favorite spread in the book.
Sophie, who had won the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award early in her career, continued her speech until she gave the command to her assistants to cut the scroll in two. Now I joined the audience groan, “Oooooohhh, Noooooo!” Not only did they cut it in half, Sophie had them continue cutting until there were scads of 1 ½” x 2” pieces of sea with at least part of a fish on each. And when she asked who would like a piece, I joined the chorus of, “Me!”