Book: The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge
Hildegarde H. Swift
Illustrated by Lynd Ward
1942

This is classic book about a little red lighthouse next to a large gray bridge. The lighthouse is proud of its job, but when it sees how much larger the bridge is and how much brighter the light at the top of it is, the lighthouse begins to doubt that it is necessary any more. One night the man who lights the lighthouse doesn’t arrive on time and the lighthouse thinks that it has been forcibly retired from its job of lighting the way for ships. The man eventually arrives and the importance of the little lighthouse, even in the shadow of the great gray bridge, becomes evident.

The story is moderately complex, but the writing is incredibly simple. At times it almost feels like the author is talking down to her audience with all of her simple explanations and repetition. I found that element of it very frustrating. At the same time, the story really is very good and the book is charming. I couldn’t help but like and sympathise with the little lighthouse. I just felt like the wonderful story could have been better served if there was more respect given to the audience.

The illustrations in this book were great. I loved the understated colours of the watercolour paintings. The duller background colours really allowed the little red lighthouse to shine in the foreground. The sense of scale is incredible with the bridge towering so high over the little lighthouse. The structures and boats all had the barest hint of faces in their features, making them seem realistic and human at the same time. It was a perfect touch for the story, since everything is very realistic in the story, but we still hear the thoughts of the lighthouse and what the bridge has to say.

In general, this was a good book. It is attractive and the story is enjoyable. That said, it didn’t wow me at all. I liked it, but wouldn’t go out of my way to read it again or expose a child to it.

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