Fun Fact

upcoming events

Book Signing with Fellow Children’s Book Authors
Date: Sunday, April 26, 2009
Time: 1 to 3 p.m.
Location: Barnes & Noble NorthPark Mall
Davenport, Iowa
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Speaker on a Panel, “Nonfiction Book Blast: Booktalks for Reluctant Readers”
Date: Sunday, July 12, 2009
Time: 10:30 to 12 Noon
Location: ALA 2009 Annual Conference
Chicago, Illinois
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The Author

Pemaquid Lighthouse, Bristol, Maine
Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. Courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office

A Personal Note from the Author

I fell in love with lighthouses as a child. Every summer beginning when I was six years old, my family drove from our home near Washington, D.C., to the coast of Maine. While we were there, I visited some of the most famous lighthouses in the United States. President George Washington ordered the construction of Maine's Portland Head Light. Sometimes we visited West Quoddy lighthouse, whose red and white stripes remind some people of a candy cane. The easternmost lighthouse in the United States, it is often enveloped in fog.

My favorite lighthouse, though, was Pemaquid Point lighthouse, which was located at the end of a peninsula. There wasn't anything particularly special about the white stone lighthouse itself. Unlike some towers, you couldn't even get inside (it is now open for tours). The setting of this lighthouse, however, was spectacular. With its white picket fence, carefully trimmed lawn and views of the rocky coastline, Pemaquid looked like something from a painter's imagination, not real life.

Katherine House (right) and a friend at Minnesota's Split Rock Lighthouse.

From the hill where the lighthouse sat, we could climb down rocky ledges to the water's edge. Some of the rocks were steep and jagged. Others had been eroded away by wind and water for years and seemed to form steps just right for my sisters and me. The three of us never tired of watching the waves rush in, crash against the rocks and then retreat. How high would the foamy seas splash? Which wave would be the biggest? Would we feel the cool mist of the salt spray even though we stood far enough away not to get wet? Each wave was different from the last. No matter how long we climbed on the rocks at Pemaquid, it wasn't long enough.

It didn't matter that we had to pass up other attractions to go there. Every summer, my sisters and I voted to visit Pemaquid. Gradually, my childhood memories were transformed into a lifelong passion. I bought books about lighthouses sought out model lighthouse collectables. As an adult, I introduced my husband, my son and several friends to lighthouses. After I moved to Iowa several years ago, I noticed a lot of puzzled looks from people when they found out I loved lighthouses. "Why lighthouses?” they asked, as they wrinkled their foreheads in a funny way. That's when I began to try to put into words why I appreciated lighthouses.

To me, there are many reasons why lighthouses are magical. I find it comforting to watch the waves ebb and flow, as they have for millions of years. I relish the opportunity to be so close to nature. I like to close my eyes and listen to the pounding surf and the squawks of seagulls. Author Katherine HouseI breathe in the fresh air and the smells of surrounding vegetation, such as the scent of pine trees. It's humbling to think that as I stand at the edge of the ocean in the United States, someone halfway around the world, who may speak a different language and dress differently, could be doing the same thing.

I also marvel at the strength and security that lighthouses represent. Their longevity speaks for the skills of builders who worked so hard to construct them. In some cases, they risked their lives so that sailors would one day be safe. Their architecture connects us to another time and way of life. Most importantly, though, I admire lighthouses because the act of serving at one required courage, long hours and dedication. Like today's fire fighters and police officers, lighthouse keepers were public servants who never knew when their job might put their lives in jeopardy. Thanks in part to their hard work and sacrifice, our nation grew and prospered.