You may never have heard of a lightship.
Once, lightships anchored on waters across America, on the oceans and in the Great Lakes, floating where lighthouses could not be built. Smaller than most ships, but more steadfast, too, they held their spots, through calm and storm, to guide sailors toward safe waters.
In these pages one lightship and her crew (and cat) again hold their place. The crew goes again from bow to stern, from keel to mast, to run their engines, shine their lights, and sound their horns.
They run the small ship that guides the large ships. They are the crew (and cat) that work to make the ocean safe, that hold their place, so other ships can sail.
With straightforward, compelling prose and crisply detailed narrative ink drawings, Floca (The Racecar Alphabet) creates an engrossing portrayal of a now-vanished nautical practice (according to a closing author's note). "Here is a ship that holds her place," he begins, with a phrase that becomes the basis of an improvised refrain (e.g., "The lightship holds her one sure spot"). Thus he introduces the fictional lightship Ambrose and her nine-man crew. Floca follows the men and their marmalade cat mascot during the mundane tasks and sometimes-dramatic occurrences of daily life (a too-close-for-comfort encounter with a big tanker elicits a salty "#@*%&!" from the crew). In the final pages, a fog rolls in (as the cat creeps across the deck, for Carl Sandburg's fans), allowing the Ambrose to show off her raison d' tre. She flashes her beacon and sounds her horn (with a mighty "beeooh," at which the feline visibly shakes) to "mark the way" for other ships "past rocks and shoals,/ past reefs and wrecks,/ past danger." Youngsters who are mesmerized by "how things work" books will want to add this one to their shelves, but even landlubbers may well embrace this tribute to steadfast duty on the high seas. Ages 4-7.