by Brian Floca


I kept waiting for something to happen in this picture book, kept wondering why nothing was happening — and in so doing kept responding exactly the way I believe Floca wants his readers to.

Lightship is an exquisite, uncommonly distinctive book. The languid pacing of the poetic text nails the unhurriedness of the lives of the crew members as their ship “holds to one sure spot.” Floca just as effectively snaps the reader to attention when it’s time for the crew to do its thing: fire up the twin beacons and guide ships around fog-obscured hazards in areas where lighthouses aren’t practical.

Or rather, where they weren’t practical. Some readers captivated by Lightship — by the illustrations that ably capture both the softness of the ship’s cat and the intricacies of its machinery — will be disappointed to learn that the last such U.S. ship docked in 1983. But perhaps they’ll be heartened to know that Light Vessel 87 — the real ship depicted here — awaits them, a floating museum in New York City right across the East River from Floca’s studio.