Poorly paced text delivers a choppy story unlikely to engage readers despite McPhail’s familiar, endearing art.
An abandoned rowboat, not the titular lighthouse, is the link between an amiable bear, a little boy and his dog. The text begins abruptly, announcing that the bear goes to a beach waterfall “to wait for fish to come tumbling down.” A rowboat appears on the facing page, and because it “smelled good” the bear decides to nap in it. The sleeping bear in the fragrant boat sails off, arrives at the abandoned lighthouse on the next page, finds good fishing in nearby rocks and doesn’t notice when the rowboat again floats away. The boy and his dog find it, and while they are sleeping within it, they float to the lighthouse as well. No longer abandoned but occupied by bear, boy and dog, the lighthouse allows the threesome to save an approaching ship when they light the “nine wicks of the giant oil lamp” and use a “giant reflecting mirror” to make the light gleam.Quite as abruptly as it began, the story leaves the characters back where they started, while the ship is safely tugged into harbor and the little rowboat sails away. An unsatisfying read. (Picture book. 4-6)