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Elsie's Story and Lighthouse Family Review by Danielle Lenz

Rachel Smith
Frontier Homesteading

Elsie's Story and Lighthouse Family by Rachel Smith are two wonderful, historically based books written in large print and dyslexic font. Both books take you on a journey to another time in history, visiting Alaska during World War II as well as Boston, Massachusetts, during the Industrial Revolution. In addition to historical lessons, these books incorporate important lessons about our morals, values, and faith within each story. Elsie's Story and Lighthouse Family are paperback books uniquely illustrated by Notika Pashenko and Kayley Smith. The soft, colorful illustrations decorate the cover of the book as well as nearly every page of these forty-to-fifty-page books. Both books are available to purchase on Amazon for $11.15 each.

It was a joy to read these books with my nine-year-old daughter. Because she struggles with symptoms of dyslexia, reading aloud can sometimes be a challenging activity for her. She was immediately excited to read Elsie's Story, as it resonated with her personally. My husband is an Athabaskan Alaska Native, and my daughter was thrilled to read a story that took place where her grandfather once lived. The font was large enough that she could clearly see each letter and the separation between the words. One of her biggest struggles when reading aloud is mixing up the order of words. She shared with me that the font seemed to help her keep things in place, making it easier for her to read words in the correct order. My daughter and I enjoyed taking turns reading one page at a time, allowing a bit of a break in between each page for her to maintain focus and not get frustrated. It was beautiful to see her joyfully reading! 

Elsie's Story is a lovely book about the experiences of a young, Native Alaskan girl living in a small town during a time when Japanese forces had invaded familiar Alaskan islands. Elsie's Story clarifies the importance of understanding the weight of knowledge and allowing your parents to carry what is too heavy until you are old enough to take it on your own. We use this analogy in our home, and I was thrilled to see it reiterated in this story.

Lighthouse Family tackles the Industrial Revolution, when men, women, and children worked extremely hard, long hours in dangerous factories, often resulting in injury and even death. The story follows a set of twins and their family as the children learn and grow while facing many momentous changes in their lives. The story speaks of the "circle of blessings," being grateful for what we have been blessed with and taking care to bless others, especially those who are experiencing hardship.

I loved that Elsie's Story included a letter to parents, in the beginning, explaining the context and sharing definitions for some lesser-known content. It also included thought-provoking discussion questions at the end of the book, which were interesting to share with my daughter. However, I found myself wishing that Lighthouse Family had included these things as well! I would love to see some discussion questions and background information added to future copies of this story.

Elsie's Story and Lighthouse Family are both lovely books that are an excellent choice for young readers struggling with dyslexia. They can be read individually or as a read-aloud and could be read all in one sitting or broken up over time. These books are an excellent resource for children struggling with reading, and I would confidently recommend them for families with children aged twelve and younger. 

-Product review by Danielle Lenz, The Old Schoolhouse®, April 2022