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Published: 20 Feb 2020

Paperback / softback, 336 pages

Recommended for age 7+

By Annet Schaap

Published by Pushkin Children's Books

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Every evening Lampie the lighthouse keeper's daughter must light a lantern to warn ships away from the rocks. But one stormy night disaster strikes. The lantern goes out, a ship is wrecked and an adventure begins.

In disgrace, Lampie is sent to work as a maid at the Admiral's Black House, where rumour has it thata monster lurks in the tower. But what she finds there is stranger and more beautiful than any monster. Soon Lampie is drawn into a fairytale adventure in a world of mermaids and pirates, where she must fight with all her might for friendship, freedom and the right to be different.

Tagged belonging , courage , difference , freedom and resilience

Reviewed by Jo Bowers

Lampie is the lighthouse keeper’s daughter. Every evening it is her job to climb to the top of the lighthouse and light the lantern to ensure ships stay safe and away from the rocks. One very stormy night the lantern goes out when Lampie discovers she has run out of matches. A ship at sea hits the rocks, which will mean Lampie’s father will be punished. In disgrace, Lampie is sent to live and work as a maid in the Admiral’s Black House, where it is rumoured a monster lurks in the tower.

This is a magical fairytale adventure story and Lampie is a wonderful central character through which the story explores the themes of friendship, freedom, loyalty and resilience. Through Lampie and many of the characters in this novel, Schapp also explores what it is like to be different and alone. At the house, Lampie befriends Edward who she finds angry and isolated as he believes he has a deformity and Lenny who has severe learning disabilities, and we see them gradually transform from her kindness and understanding of them.

It has to be said to that this is a story filled with a brilliant cast of characters including mermaids and pirates. Schaap moves brilliantly between these characters and this fairy tale element of the story and the stark harsher storyline of Lampie living in poverty without her mother and with a father who is an alcoholic who she helps work the lighthouse as he is also disabled. It is these different layers and storylines that make this a complex and riveting read.

There are double-spread illustrations, also by Annet Schaap, that introduce each part of the story,  there are five in total. These black and white illustrations capture the atmosphere and mood of each section beautifully and perfectly complement the vivid descriptions throughout the book. I read an interview that Annet Schaap gave where she shares that the inspiration for the book was based on a lighthouse she saw while travelling around Canada and the US with her family in a camper van. Indeed, she says that ‘the landscape we had travelled in really made it possible to imagine all the things I wanted to write about’.

This is a debut novel from Annet Schaap that is perfect for Upper KS2 and I sincerely hope there will be more to come as she writes with such depth and understanding of the themes explored in this book. It is a beautifully written and translated book.

Jo Bowers is a Principal Lecturer in Primary Education (Literacy) at Cardiff Metropolitan University. She joined the university ten years ago and prior to that was a classroom teacher and English leader in a primary school for nineteen years. Jo has been editor of, and currently sits on the Editorial Board of English 4-11 for the English Association and the UKLA Publications Committee. Jo runs an Open University Reading for Pleasure Teacher Group for teachers in Cardiff and sits on various shortlisting and selection panels for children's book awards, currently the English Association Picture Book Award and the Books Council of Wales Tir na n-Og Award. Jo is a Wales representative for UKLA, reviews books for Just Imagine and writes for English 4-11. She is passionate about children's literature and is happiest when she is reading and surrounded by books.