"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Monday, August 13, 2018

Back to School Read Alouds that Help Create a Community of Learners

With our Responsive School Library Program, it's important that the students and I take the time to establish our rules and routines, while also exploring what it will look like and sound like when we are being a caring and supportive community of learners. Below are links to blog posts for picture books that inspired courageous and constructive conversations and critical thinking.


HELLO LIGHTHOUSE by Sophie Blackall is one stunning book. It is absolutely beautiful.  Blackall's exquisite art is matched by her spare, lyrical narrative. It is a book that makes the reader sit back to take in the whole scene then beckons her or him to lean in and examine each gorgeous detail. 

In HELLO LIGHTHOUSE, Blackall invites readers to think about the role of this magnificent building and the steadfast keepers who quietly went about protecting the lives of those who sailed the sea. It is a book that is at once both universal and unique. We learn about this uncommon life of a lighthouse keeper, while also recognizing universal traits and themes of hard work, diligence, loneliness, comfort, the natural world, and the circle of life.

But I get ahead of myself, let's start at the beginning of the book. This jacket asks to be moved to make the lighthouse beacon shine while it subtly demonstrates the role of a lighthouse. 

Under that beautiful jacket is this case art. The lighthouse beacon seems to be emulating the stars in the night sky.
The flap on the jacket completes the art on the end papers, yet when removed reveals new images.

And so we begin.

"On the highest rock of a tiny island
at the edge of the world stands a lighthouse.
It is built to last forever.
Sending it's light out to sea,
guiding the ships on their way.

From dusk to dawn, the lighthouse beams.
                  Hello, Lighthouse!"

Blackall's use of circular insets invites the reader into the sometimes small, but always important life of the lighthouse keeper.
I love this lighthouse and want to walk through it. This page is a case in point as to how this book asks the reader to sit back and take in a scene...
...and then lean in to explore each exquisitely-wrought detail:

Again, I love how these circular insets feel like looking through a nautical hand held telescope into the keeper's life. The ocean flowing around them reinforces how isolated this life is.
Those letters in a bottle are an example of the fine details Blackall imparts throughout the book.
Those letters in a bottle yield a wonderful surprise. The lighthouse keeper's wife comes to join him! We see what you are seeing!
I love how this spread makes it feel like the lighthouse and ship are moving toward each other.
Hello!  Hello! Hello Lighthouse!

Those outstretched hands! Those expressions!

Daily life, including storms, sickness, and rescues ensues, but my favorite is the growth of their family and how Blackall reinforces the circle of life throughout.

Look at these parents showering their baby with love. 
I haven't mentioned the ocean! Throughout the book, the ocean has a personality and story all its own - from stormy swells to calm ripples, it is an ever present element of the story ebbing and flowing around the stalwart lighthouse.
Times change and life at the lighthouse comes to an end. 
Slow, deep breaths accompany the reading of these pages. We feel the keeper's sorrow.   

"He climbs to the top
of the spiral stairs
and closes the logbook
for good.

They pack their belongings
into the boat
and wave farewell 
to the gulls."

"On the highest rock of a tiny island
at the edge of the world stands a lighthouse.
It is built to last forever.
Sending it's light out to sea.

The fog rolls in, and the fog rolls out.
The waves rise and crash.
The wind blows and blows.


The gate fold that follows is beautiful and uplifting.
We readers know who is living in that house on the ocean's edge. 
Sophie Blackall includes a note about lighthouses in the back matter that is sure to further pique readers' interests in these magnificent buildings and the keepers who cared for them. 

I cannot wait to read this book with my students!