School Library Journal - Miss Colfax's Light
School Library Journal (Jun 2016)
K-Gr 3—From 1861 to 1904, Miss Harriet Colfax tended the oil lamps and beacons of the Michigan City Lighthouse while living in the keeper’s house on the Lake Michigan shore with her friend and companion, Ann Hartwell. Harriet’s story begins in pictures, with a verso spread showing her traveling by boat to the lighthouse with all her possessions. Ewen’s illustrations, which appear to be watercolors with fine-lined detail, add excitement to this story, helping readers imagine the subject’s difficult life. The artist varies their size and shape, using vignettes to show the tedium of daily chores and, at one point, using a dramatic cutaway of the keeper’s house to emphasize the challenge of the twice-nightly climb to the light. There are striking storms and angry waves. Bissonette dramatizes Harriet’s story with events the keeper had noted in her journal and with reiterations of her determination (“I can do this.”). Quotes from the journal are set off in parchment-colored boxes, but the back matter (a short author’s note and glossary) does not include sources. VERDICT Though not as dramatic as Marissa Moss’s The Bravest Woman in America, about Ida Lewis, this is an appealing profile of a remarkable woman and a nice reminder that the Great Lakes have dangerous coasts as well.