When a United States agency recently announced it was selling off lighthouses that had fallen into disuse, the New York Times interviewed a woman who had bought a lighthouse years ago and felt it wise to let potential bidders know that the structures often “lack basic utilities” and are “built in remote locations that are not easily accessible to contractors.”
Such minor inconveniences would be no impediment to the young protagonist of Whitney Moran’s rhyming picture book I Want to Build a Seahouse. In fact, when we meet her she’s already living in a lighthouse with her parents. Now though, the arrival of her newborn sister is making her crave some solitude.
Figuring this will require a move further afield – or rather, adrift – she begins envisioning a fantasy “seahouse” with “windows made of sea glass / And floors of softest pine.” And for the exterior:
A foghorn for a doorbell
A fence of fishing rope
I’ll build it out of bits and bobs
And buoys will help it float!
In Josée Bisaillon’s simple but delightful illustrations, the seahouse is essentially a shack on a floating raft. But hey, home is where the heart is. (The seahouse where Moran lives in West Dover, Nova Scotia, per the book’s bio, is presumably a little more substantial.) The protagonist has even thought out the seascaping:
I’ll have a seaweed garden
With dulse and bladderwrack
And friends to help me harvest
Each time I want a snack.
(If you ever have occasion to use the term “bladderwrack,” take it.)
And who needs human company when you’ve got narwhals, whales, seagulls, seals, and octopuses on hand to help you fish for your dinner and deliver bottled messages to your family back on terra firma?
Gradually, though, doubt starts seeping into the young girl’s watertight plan. What if those messages in bottles get lost and float away? And what about those inevitable days “when the surf’s a froth of fear?” After some consideration, and with perhaps a touch of pride, she settles on a compromise. She’ll build the seahouse, but will keep her real house, too, “Because no house could be a home / Unless it’s filled with you.”
A heartwarming tale about the escapist power of imagination that should appeal to landlubbers and coastal types alike.