Courage Like Kate: The True Story of a Girl Lighthouse Keeper by Anna Crowley Redding and Emily Sutton

Hello, Anna Crowley Redding! Hello, Emily Sutton! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read. Thank you for stopping by to celebrate Courage Like Kate: The True Story of a Girl Lighthouse Keeper, your inspiring and beautifully illustrated picture book biography.

Anna, thank you for introducing me to Kate Moore. I have two questions. 

1. When did you first learn about her?

Anna Crowley Redding: Ever since I was a news reporter, I have this habit of checking headlines all the time. One night back in 2014, I could not sleep, and checked a news app on my phone. That’s when I saw an Associated Press headline that the U.S. Coastguard was celebrating the heroic life-saving action of a lighthouse keeper named Kate Moore by naming a new ship after her. But here’s the part that got me––she lived in the 1800’s and started keeping the lighthouse at age twelve. I simply could not get over it. I had to know more and make sure everyone else did, too!

2. What was the most fun part of the research you conducted for this book?

Anna Crowley Redding: This was a true deep dive into primary sources. I really had to put on my detective hat so that I could uncover every shred of evidence of Kate’s life and I love that kind of challenge. It’s a lot like working on a jigsaw puzzle. But visiting her island and lighthouse was the most fun because, in a visceral way, I could understand in the danger she faced day in and day out.

Emily, please tell us about the moment you captured on Courage Like Kate’s cover.

Emily Sutton: The scene I chose to depict on the cover of “Courage Like Kate” shows Kate looking determined and bold on the deck of the lighthouse that she diligently tended. It’s a night scene which focuses on the drama of the lighthouse in a stormy sky; light beams cutting through the darkness. I hand lettered the title, inspired by Victorian typography and the newspapers on whose pages Kate’s story originally would have appeared. In a little reference to one of my illustration heroes Edward Gorey (who lived on the east coast of America not too far from Kate) I made use of some pen and ink hatching to render the choppy waves of the sea. All my work is done with traditional materials- for this image I used pencil, inks, watercolour and acrylics.

Anna, please finish the following sentence starters: 

Emily Sutton’s illustrations are dynamic, unforgettable, and beautifully layered with color and texture to take visual storytelling to the next level, which enables Emily to completely immerse the reader in the world as she sees it! What a treat.

Story is being swept away into another life, world, or experience to discover a part of yourself.

Emily, please finish the following sentence starters: 

Anna Crowley Redding’s manuscript for Courage Like Kate was a complete joy to illustrate. I love that it tells the story of a girl going against the grain of societal expectations and succeeding- as an aunt and a godmother to several young girls I’m always seeking out books that give messages of confidence and empowerment which this book manages to deliver in a poetic and engaging way.

The warmth and descriptive quality of Anna’s words immediately conjured up a sense of place and time and filled my head with images for the illustrations. I was working on the paintings during the lockdowns of 2020 and it was a very welcome escape from reality to immerse myself in the windswept coast of nineteenth century Fayerweather island. Thanks to the extensive historical research and photographs that Anna had used to tell Kate’s story with detail and familiarity I felt completely invested in both the characters and the location; so much so that by the time I had finished on the artworks it was pretty hard to say goodbye.

Picture books are treasure troves of imagination- I know that for me as a child, my books were the launchpads into exploring ideas and inspiration for my own creativity and the reason that I decided to pursue a career as an artist. The fact that I still have most of my books from over thirty years ago on my bookshelves is testament to the happiness and nostalgia that they bring me.

As an art form picture books have the special quality of using both word and image in collaboration to hopefully create something that is more than the sum of its parts; a complete world to lose yourself in, find comfort, engage with characters and emotions. I love the process of making a picture book; remembering all the qualities that particularly drew me in as a young reader and bringing those into my illustrations. Being able to collaborate with an author is a fun and inspiring process- having a text and figuring out how best to bring their words to life is one of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of my working life.

Thank you, Anna Crowley Redding and Emily Sutton! 

Random House's Description:

An inspiring and beautifully illustrated picture book biography based on the life of Kate Moore, a twelve-year-old lighthouse keeper in the 19th century who saved the lives of twenty-three sailors.

With an evocative text and stunning illustrations, travel back to the stormy, rocky shores of 19th century Connecticut and meet an unforgettable heroine—at a time when girls were considered anything but. Fayerweather Island had seen blustery blizzards and rip-roaring tides, but it had never seen a pint-sized hurricane until Kate Moore claimed that tiny island as her own. Little Kate was supposed to be the lighthouse keeper’s daughter, but she thought of herself as Papa’s assistant.

The thirty-three spiraling lighthouse stairs finally took a toll on Papa’s body, and so twelve-year-old Kate stepped up. Over the years, she kept the flame lit to guide ships to safety, listened for cries for help, and, time and again, pulled men to safety—twenty-three of them in all. At the age of forty-seven, Kate received word—she had been named the official lighthouse keeper of Fayerweather Island. This girl-power picture book introduces a small heroine, who, with her can-do attitude and incredible spirit, is sure to inspire.


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