Eleven-year-old Ronnie Morse lives with his Aunt Martha, a widow who once resided at the remote lighthouse on Tern Rock, where her husband was the lighthouse keeper. For 14 years, they made the lighthouse tower their home, with the rough ocean waters crashing on all sides around them and the seagulls flying overhead as their only company. For Aunt Martha, Tern Rock is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places she has ever known. So when she is asked to fill in for the current lighthouse keeper while he visits his family on land, she accepts the offer — and the chance to share the magic of Tern Rock with her nephew Ronnie.
But they are taking care of the lighthouse during two weeks in December. And as the days creep closer to Christmas, Ronnie realizes that he and his aunt might have to spend the holiday alone out on Tern Rock. After all, no boat comes from land to retrieve them, and the ships that sometimes pass the lighthouse are miles away out at sea. Ronnie can't understand how the lighthouse keeper could promise to come for them by Christmas and then go back on his word. It's not until he finds a storage locker in the lighthouse, along with a note left by the lighthouse keeper, that Ronnie learns why the promise wasn't kept. And it is a lesson that teaches him the spirit of giving and forgiving that is at the heart of Christmas.
Julia L. Sauer earned a Newbery Honor for her beautiful story, and Georges Schreiber's evocative illustrations only work to make it better. From the giant lamps at the top of the lighthouse tower, down the winding spiral staircase and out to Tern Rock itself, the book's descriptions and pictures bring the setting to life. Readers share with Ronnie not just the experience of living in such a remote place, but the lessons Ronnie finally learns while he is there.