Engaging, elegant paintings bring the cats of this lighthouse to life in a coastal adventure inspired various versions of a tower that has stood on the rocks off Plymouth, England, since 1698. The lonely, white-bearded lighthouse keeper, on his faithful rounds, discovers a hungry cat huddled on the stairs of the tower. The keeper names the soft gray kitten Mackerel, and the two become inseparable companions. Together, just before sundown each evening, they climb to the top of the tower, and set alight the twenty four candles. Then, together, they mount the stairs to check the flames each half hour, all in an effort to save ships at sea from coming too close to the dangerous rocks. One night, wild wind extinguishes the light and hope, as all desperate attempts of relighting the wicks fail. Mackerel musters his friends and finds a way to save the ships by shining another kind of light from the lighthouse. The paintings glow with an intensity, a depth and a realism that lends a sort of texture to the pages. The perspectives show off the island and the lighthouse, the keeper and the cats from every delightful angle. 2004, Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins Publishers, and Ages 3 to 7.
Gr 1-4-This beautifully illustrated tale is set in the past, when a lighthouse was lit with a 24-candle lantern and the keeper was responsible for trimming the wicks every half hour. Using descriptive language, Stainton tells how a lonely keeper discovers a stray cat on board the supply boat and decides to keep him. Mackerel proves to be the perfect companion for the man, helping him to watch for boats and providing company at night. When a terrible storm knocks out the lantern and the keeper is unable to re-light it, Mackerel prevents a shipwreck by summoning 11 of his feline friends; they wait for the clouds to clear and then light up the area by having the moon reflect in their eyes. The illustrations are impressive. Full-page paintings are framed by ocean-blue backgrounds, while each page of text sports a circular vignette. A border of waves decorates the bottom of each spread. When the storm hits, the waves become dark and sinister looking. The close-up renderings of the gray-coated, green-eyed cat are especially appealing. This is a great book for children to read for personal enjoyment and for teachers to share as part of a history lesson.-Sheilah Kosco, Rapides Parish Library, Alexandria, LA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.