Part fairytale, part fable, Tony Steeno’s Beyond the Lighthouse, Over the Mountains is a lovingly produced children’s picture book that presents a story at once dreamy and meaningful, accompanied by impressive illustrations.
While Nell and Nicklebee, anthropomorphic bear siblings, are gardening one day, a huge, gauzy bubble floats up and bursts to reveal a sheet of parchment with an invitation to find a treasure chest. They set off on the adventure of a lifetime, bringing along a friendly and adventurous rabbit friend who knows the mountains and rivers of their land by heart. Together, they trek through terrible storms, encounter a house with a terrifying monster, and make several new friends. At journey’s end, they reach the town where the treasure chest is held. Here, they learn that the chest doesn’t contain physical valuables, but rather an important lesson: the journey of life isn’t taken alone, and it’s important to work together to make it as full and wonderful as possible.
Stunning, full-page ink-and-watercolor illustrations in this oversized book make the story truly memorable and are alone worth poring over with young children to spot all the details and create new imaginings. The tale is lovely, with relatable characters and adventures that feel original enough to nod to the genre while creating something surprising and new.
The personalities of the supporting cast feel more developed than those of the protagonists who first find the message and instigate the quest. This may be why the moral, while important, doesn’t feel directly connected to Nell and Nicklebee: They seem to work quite well when we find them; they already have friends and resources, and they continue to help the journey run smoothly by listening to advice and accepting and giving help.
While the story might be more impactful if the characters experienced significant personal growth along the way, the skillful writing and enchanting illustrations make this a worthy addition to any child’s bookshelf.