CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 4. . . .September 25, 2009
Twelve-year-old Nell Baker develops from isolated to connected to the world outside her lighthouse home through her use of a telegraph, and she faces natural disaster with bravery in this adventure-filled historical novel. Set in the early 1900s on the coast of Vancouver Island, this highly readable novel tells the story of Nell's growth into maturity and life as a lighthouse keeper's daughter. At the story's opening, a man from the Canadian government visits the lighthouse where Nell lives with her father and grandfather to announce that they will soon be equipped with a telegraph in an effort to improve maritime security on the coast. During his visit, the man also urges Nell's father to send her to Victoria to attend school. Nell is determined to stay, feeling content with her life the way it is, and her father eventually agrees that he would not be able to perform the duties of the keeper, learn to use the telegraph and care for his ailing father without Nell's help. He decides that she should stay, and he assigns her the task of learning to communicate using the telegraph. The telegraph expands Nell's world, and she soon befriends other lighthouse keepers and even the daughter of a keeper, her first friend of her own age. This contact, which instills a desire to experience more of the world outside her home, leads to Nell’s decision at the end of the novel to attend school in Victoria in the next year.
The true historical events of the story involve two shipwreck rescues that Nell and her neighboring lighthouse keepers become involved with in the novel. The first is the failed rescue of the Valencia, and the climax of the story comes with the second rescue, the shipwreck of the Coloma. Nell sees the shipwreck but, because the telegraph lines are down, she must walk to the house of her friend, Minnie Patterson, to get help for the ship. The author's note at the end of the novel explains that Minnie Patterson and her family were real historical figures who were involved in both rescues.
Jeannine Stickle is a Library and Information Studies student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.