Reviews /

How Does a Lighthouse Work?

Authored by Roman Belyaev (translated by Masha Kulikova)
Illustrated by Roman Belyaev
Published by b small publishing limited

How Does a Lighthouse Work? is a beautifully illustrated nonfiction book that takes us into the world of the lighthouse. It explores the history, geography, science and indeed the beauty of lighthouses and celebrates their varied architecture and design.

To begin with, the front cover would be a great stimulus to initially explore the range of lighthouses, their similarities and differences and sharing facts you already know about lighthouses, then revisiting this initial discussion once you’ve read the book. And, as the title of this book is a question, it would also be remiss not to build on this by asking more questions children might have before entering into the book itself, because questions are at the very centre of this book. Each double spread is structured around a question, perfect to engage and encourage curious minds. Questions such as: What will I find at a lighthouse station? What is it like on the top deck? How far can the light shine? And many more. All answered clearly and succinctly and each new question builds on knowledge and facts from previous pages. I learnt such a lot. I loved finding out that the bricks of the walls of a lighthouse fit together like a jigsaw, and that this particular shape of the bricks stops them slipping away from each other, with a simple diagram to illustrate this fact.

Encompassing the factual pages of this book, is the premise of the story of a school trip to visit a lighthouse with nostalgic illustrations in the endpapers and first two double spreads of a minibus heading off (opening endpaper) and heading home (ending endpaper) and speech bubbles from all the children going, asking a question about lighthouses. It gives, what might have become a straight ‘facts about lighthouses’ book a warmth and authenticity. The colour palette throughout adds to this nostalgic feel and reflects the colours associated with lighthouses – white, red and black – as well as different hues of blues of the sea and the night sky, which captures them and their settings beautifully.

Lighthouses feature in lots of children’s fiction books. The Lighthouse Keepers Lunch series for KS1 and Emma Carroll’s Letters From the Lighthouse for KS2 are just two that immediately spring to mind. How Does a Lighthouse Work? would sit well alongside these stories to find out more about these fascinating essential structures and see how what we find out in this book is reflected in stories.

At the back we are introduced to some famous and interesting lighthouses around the world, including The Statue of Liberty. Yes, it began life as a lighthouse! And no, I didn’t know that either! This book keeps on giving as at the end there’s a double spread inviting you to design your own lighthouse, taking you step by step, asking you to choose location, height, shape, design and more. I really wanted to get paper and coloured pencils out straight away, I’d been so inspired reading about them. This is a book for all ages in KS2 primary. The amount of information on each page alongside diagrams and illustrations means this would appeal to KS2 but also younger children could to with the support of an adult or older reader with them. Highly recommended for all enquiring minds.

Winner of the STEAM Children’s Book Prize 2018

Nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal 2019