Translated from Dutch, this story is included on the prestigious CILIP Carnegie medal longlist, just announced. It is absorbing, old-fashioned storytelling, reminiscent of The Secret Garden, in which a motherless young girl, the good-hearted lighthouse-keeper’s daughter Lampie, arrives at an unhappy house and gradually transforms the lives of the inhabitants, including a gentle giant with learning difficulties called Lenny, and an isolated, angry boy who has what he thinks is a “deformity”. It also has old-fashioned villains: cruel, negligent fathers, and the manager of a fairground “freak show”. It has a magical, fairy-tale element, mermaids, kindly pirates, surprises, suspense, evocative black-and-white scenes by the author (who is known as an illustrator) and a forgiving ending.
Each evening, Lampie the lighthouse-keeper's daughter must light a lantern to keep the ships away from the rocks. But when disaster strikes, she is sent in disgrace to work at the Black House, where rumour tells of a creature in the tower. What Lampie finds there draws her into a world of monsters, mermaids and pirates more strange and magical than anything she could have imagined. I didn't read this in time to feature the hardback last spring, so I am very glad to recommend this absolute gem in paperback.