Friday, September 1, 2017

A bit of Auckland history…

Ivan and the Lighthouse by Grant Sheehan, illus. Rosalind Clark, Phantom Tree House (

The lighthouse on Bean Rock is a familiar structure to Aucklanders. This well-presented and attractive picture book is loosely based on events in the life of Ivan Anderson and his father James, who was the lighthouse keeper at Bean Rock from 1909 to 1911. Ivan goes to school in Devonport, but he spends a lot of time daydreaming about going out to Bean Rock and helping his father. Finally – as a birthday present – he’s allowed to row out with his father for the two-night weekend stay. Ivan enjoys watching the birds, and he’s lucky enough to see Halley’s Comet in the night-time sky. He also watches as a steamer temporarily runs aground on a rock some distance away. Of course, Ivan vows that he also will become a lighthouse keeper.

The author is a photographer and publisher with a lifelong interest in lighthouses. The illustrator is a graphic designer and illustrator specialising in narrative graphics; she uses pencil, collage, pixel and ink. Phantom Tree House is an offshoot of Phantom House, a local publisher that produces good-quality non-fiction books for adults.

The text is straightforward and interesting; the stylised illustrations are fresh and simple; the design of the book is excellent. There’s not a lot of action or excitement, but the publisher pretty well sums it up: “Aimed at readers aged 5-7 who like history, science, astronomy and a sense of adventure.”
Best for early primary-aged children who will be attracted by Ivan’s cheerful cartoon face on the cover – and, of course, Bean Rock Lighthouse itself.

ISBN 978 0 9941285 1 5 RRP $25 Pb (with flaps)

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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