This Spanish import opens vertically, emphasizing the height of the titular lighthouse with each double-page spread.
For Leo’s ninth birthday, his grandfather takes him to the lighthouse he has taken care of for many years, but now it no longer serves ships and seafarers. His grandpa has a different set of duties now. First he makes a shadow swallow with his hands and the lighthouse beam. Then he flashes the light to send a Morse code message. Finally, the grandfather wafts out clouds of smoke from his pipe and uses the light as a gigantic movie projector with the smoke as a screen. He tells Leo that he does these tasks to cheer those who are sad, lonely, or worried, like the fishermen’s wives or a lone retired seaman—and they are now Leo’s responsibility. The old man marks the moment by placing his own sailor’s cap on Leo’s head. The images, done in mothlike colors, pale washes of green and brown, are gentle and slightly mysterious, reflecting the shimmer of magical realism that overlays the text. There’s a certain didacticism that threatens to overtake the story, and a small but jarring note sounds when the grandfather’s beard is described as long though depicted as quite short in the pictures.
Nevertheless, it is a rather beautiful, quiet tale and smells of the salt sea. (Picture book. 5-9)