Poetry Box review: The Lighthouse Princess by Susan Wardell and Rose Northey

The Lighthouse Princess, Susan Wardell, illustrated by Rose Northey, Picture Puffin, 2022

Susan Wardell (author) and Rose Northey (illustrator) are a match made in heaven. The Lighthouse Princess is the most scintillating picture book I have read in ages. The first page offers an inviting scene. The pared back opening sentence set me daydreaming about how it might unfold into story.

“The princess lived
in a tower by the sea.”

Rose’s illustration holds me all through my morning coffee and my chocolate pastry before I turn the page. First the crumpled paper ocean, then the floating curiosities: a boat with a goldfish bowl, another setting sail with a tree. The lighthouse tower bends like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, upon a bed of rocks with flowers and seals and cascading water.

The princess lives alone in the lighthouse tower, looking after the light that keeps ships safe, and finds fascinating things to fill her day. And then something happens. Out of the blue. Out of the storm.

And I refuse to spoil the book by telling you what happens next!

Each page is a picnic spot of delight, the words reverberate and the illustrations gift intricate visual layers.

This is a story of filling a day, of finding ways to be content, whether alone or with friends. It is a story of light and lightness. Above all, it is a story of friendship.

The Lighthouse Princess is an altogether breathtaking heartwarming exquisite hug of a book. Sublimely written. Sublimely illustrated. I adore it.

Penguin page

Susan Wardell is from Dunedin, New Zealand. She lives by the harbour, and teaches at the University of Otago, while raising two small humans and a modest indoor jungle. Alongside academic writing Susan publishes in a variety of creative genres. Her poetry, micro-fiction, book reviews and literary essays have been published in a variety of journals throughout Australasia, and won several awards. Her first picture book for children, The Lighthouse Princess, was selected for the 2021 Storylines Gavin Bishop Award for Illustration.

Rose Northey is a Takapuna-born, Wellington-based illustrator and poet. She spent her childhood sketching animals with her grandfather and mother, doodled her way through an honours degree in Mechanical Engineering and after three years in Product Development Engineering tried her luck at a creative career. At first Rose focused on performance poetry, but one day, when her domestic flight was delayed, she sketched other waiting passengers and rediscovered her joy for drawing. She is the current champion of the Going West Writers Festival Poetry Grand Slam. Rose won the Storylines Gavin Bishop Award for Illustration in 2021, producing illustrations for The Lighthouse Princess.

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