This week we’ve been spending time with The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, one of our favorite Five in a Row books. The picture above (taken by my talented husband) is of the little red lighthouse itself, from a 2008 trip to New York we took when John was 5 and David was 2. The book tells the story of a little lighthouse that is very proud and thinks its self very important until the day when a great gray bridge is built beside it. The lighthouse doesn’t think it’s needed anymore until a foggy night when the boats cannot see the light on the top of the bridge. It’s a sweet story and also lends itself to lots of fun read along books about boats and bridges and signals and rivers and lighthouses.
The best of these has been this book by Maira Kalman about the John J. Harvey. There are many things that make this a great book all on its own. It’s the very compelling story of a fireboat that is saved from the scrap heap by a group of friends, only to return to service again when needed on Sept 11, 2001. The illustrations by Maria Kalman are colorful and interesting and as is her trademark she includes lots of small details that make the story seem more real (the Snickers bar was introduced the same year the Harvey was first launched). The book is also a great way to talk to young kids about Sept 11th. I’ve talked to my kids a little bit about about the horrific events that day but I appreciated that Kalman presents what happens in a straightforward manner but without some of the more disturbing details. It opens the door to discussion but leaves exactly what to discuss up to the parents.
Along with all that, this is also a great book to read along with The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. The story lines are somewhat similar (obsolete lighthouse/boat replaced by newer technology but then in the end still useful) and the setting is the same. But even more exciting for my boys was that the George Washington Bridge (the Great Gray Bridge) was completed in 1931, the year the Harvey launched. Kalman includes this fact along with an illustration of the bridge and shows the little red lighthouse underneath the bridge. They were thrilled at that detail. It is always exciting for me as a reader to discover those kind of connections and it was extra fun for me to see their excitement.
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