Kate's Light: Kate Walker at Robbins Reef Lighthouse

by Elizabeth Spires (Author) Emily Arnold McCully (Illustrator)

Kate's Light: Kate Walker at Robbins Reef Lighthouse
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Illustrated by a Caldecott Medalist, Kate's Light shares the exciting true story of Katherine Walker and her long, heroic career as one of the first woman lighthouse keepers on the Eastern Seaboard.

When Kate Kaird immigrated with her young son Jacob from Germany to America in 1882, she couldn't have predicted the surprising turn her life would take. She soon met and married John Walker, keeper of the Sandy Hook Lighthouse. They moved to Robbins Reef Lighthouse in New York Harbor in 1885 and she became assistant keeper.

At first Kate wondered if she could live in such a lonely place, but she gradually grew to love life at Robbins Reef. When her husband died several years later, she was determined to stay on. After convincing the Lighthouse Board that she could do the job alone, Kate was appointed permanent keeper of the lighthouse, becoming one of the first women on the Eastern seaboard to be put in charge of an offshore lighthouse. She lived there 34 years and was known for her many rescues.

With watercolor and ink illustrations which perfectly capture the salty spray of the sea, Kate's Light brings the turn of the century New York Harbor to life, with a focus on one of its little known but most crucial attendants.There is extensive additional material in the back of the book that includes an About Kate Walker section, photos of Kate and Robbins Reef Lighthouse, and a list of sources.

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection


Publishers Weekly

Kate Walker took charge of Robbins Reef Lighthouse in the Port of New York when her husband died, toiling ceaselessly to give ships safe passage while raising her children and rowing to Staten Island for supplies. A German immigrant to the U.S. with a son, she married lighthouse keeper John Walker, who worked on the mainland until he took the post at isolated Robbins Reef. His wife balked: "Those first few weeks, Kate didn't unpack her trunks." In time, though, her doubts cleared. When their daughter was three, John died of pneumonia: "Mind the light, Kate" were his last words to her. Resisting pressure to leave the lighthouse, she won his position years later, in 1895, having served as assistant keeper during his life. Caldecott Medalist McCully's vivid ink and watercolor spreads bring to life the storms and waves that made Walker's work necessary, and brim with visual information about the lighthouse and the people who depended on it. Chapter book-style writing by Spires (The Big Meow) provides ample context and many anecdotes. An intrepid heroine in a lonely place, Walker had grit that makes for gripping reading. Ages 6-8. (Jan.)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Spires, a poet, professor and author of several children's books, creates a memorable tribute to an indomitable woman and her remarkable life. Walker's willingness to step into the unknown is thrilling, and McCully's illustrations add drama and impact to the swashbuckling story. Heavily applied watercolors create a massive thunderstorm on the page, and carefully rendered details will help readers imagine what it's like to call an island lighthouse home. Kate's Light is an unusual true story compellingly told.—BookPage

Caldecott Medalist McCully's vivid ink and watercolor spreads bring to life the storms and waves that made Walker's work necessary, and brim with visual information about the lighthouse and the people who depended on it. Chapter book-style writing by Spires (The Big Meow) provides ample context and many anecdotes. An intrepid heroine in a lonely place, Walker had grit that makes for gripping reading.—Publishers Weekly

In Spires' spirited telling, Kate Walker's professional achievement is less a tale of ambitiously upending gender expectations and more a demonstration of persistently demanding recognition of and remuneration for hard-earned skills. McCully's watercolor illustrations glide smoothly from homey interiors to roiling storms, capturing Kate hammering a massive warning bell in dense fog or chattering contentedly with friends in the sunshine. —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

McCully's loose, sweeping, yet specific illustrations combine seamlessly with Spires' clear and engaging description . . . A distinctive selection that highlights an unknown heroine and her world as a lighthouse keeper.—Kirkus Reviews

Spires emphasizes the hardships of this lifestyle (five-story living quarters accessible only by ladder, no electricity or indoor plumbing); its physical demands (caring for the lamps and sirens, conducting rescues via rowboat, ringing the station's bell in the fog); and the sheer isolation of living at sea. McCully's illustrations, rendered in pen, ink, and watercolor, help to bring this setting and time period to life for younger readers. . . . Appended with further information and sources, this makes a good addition to women's history units.—Booklist

Elizabeth Spires
Elizabeth Spires is a poet and has written several books for children, including The Mouse of Amherst. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland, where she teaches at Goucher College.

Emily Arnold McCully has illustrated many books for children including Mirette on the High Wire which received a Caldecott Medal. She lives in Old Chatham, New York.

Classification
Nonfiction
ISBN-13
9780823443482
Lexile Measure
N/A
Guided Reading Level
N/A
Publication date
January 20, 2021
Series
-
Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

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