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 Book

Lighthouses for Kids brings to life an era when rivers, lakes, and oceans were the nation’s highways and lighthouses served as traffic signals and maps. Whether you're a kid who wants to discover the history and science of lighthouses or a kid at heart looking for a lighthouse resource, this book is for you. Enjoy a sneak peek at the first few pages of the book below:

Chapter One: Growing Up at a Lighthouse
True Stories of Keepers' Kids

Eight-year-old Philmore Wass searched the shoreline as he scurried to the outhouse on a cold December morning in 1925. Low-lying fog on Maine’s Libby Island kept him from seeing far. He could barely make out the shape of tall stakes that looked like fence posts sticking out of the water. Puzzled, he ran back to the house and grabbed the spyglass that hung over the kitchen table. The magnifier revealed what his eyes could not see: the broken masts of a sailing ship. The ship must have wrecked the previous night when howling winds had kept him awake.

Young Philmore Wass (right), shown here when he was eight years old, moved to Maine’s Libby Island in 1919 when he was two years old. His father was the head keeper of the Libby Island Lighthouse. Courtesy of Philmore B. Wass.

Maine’s Libby Island Lighthouse (left). U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office

Philmore had seen shipwrecks before near this island where his father was a lighthouse keeper. Right now, Dad was on the mainland with Philmore’s older brother. Mrs. Wass called the nearby Coast Guard station to tell them about the tragedy. The Wass family was lucky to have a telephone. Not all homes—and certainly not all lighthouses— had one in the 1920s. The Wass’s phone worked using an underground cable that often went out in bad storms. On this day, it was working, and Philmore’s mother was relieved to learn that the ship’s crew had been rescued.

The lighthouse keeper’s son could not wait for the fog to lift so that he could see what had happened. How big was the ship? What cargo had it been carrying? What kind of damage had it endured? Philmore remembered an earlier shipwreck near rocky Libby Island. He had been sad to see a majestic ship destroyed by the unpredictable force of the sea. After the fog lifted, Philmore realized the ship must have been heading to one of New England’s many paper mills. Cords of wood floated on the water, turning it a whitish-brown color.

Philmore, his sister Nonie, and her friend went outside to explore. They walked the length of snow-covered Libby Island to reach the sandbar separating it from its neighboring island, “Big Libby.” As they drew closer, they noticed that two of the ship’s three masts were still connected to the deck, but leaned at an odd angle. The rigging, or ropes that supported the sails, swung back and forth in the wind. The ship’s shredded sails hung from cords of wood. “It was difficult to comprehend that the wind and the seas, combined with the destructive power of Libby’s Ledges, could so totally destroy a ship of this size and strength in a few hours,” he wrote.

When the tide went out, the children waded across the bar to the wreck. “Feeling like midgets, we stood near the hull and looked up at the largest man-made structure we had ever seen,” Philmore recalled. The three managed to reach the stern, or rear, of the John C. Myers and climb aboard. Dishes, food, even furniture, had been hurled about. The odor of large chunks of salt pork floating in the water made Philmore’s stomach flip-flop. Like others who lived along the coast at the time, the keeper’s son knew that once a ship was totally wrecked, anyone could salvage what was left. The search for souvenirs began. Soon he spotted a beautiful black mahogany box.

Purchase the book or visit your local library to find out what happened!