Toni Buzzeo

Will Santa know how to find us? That’s what Frances and Peter wonder as Christmas Day approaches. They have just moved with their papa to a tiny lighthouse island off the coast of Maine, and a wild storm has kept even the supply boats away. It hasn’t dampened their holiday cheer, though. And there are wonderful surprises on the way. (Maybe even a gift for the one-eared cat.)

Coastal lighthouses are some of the most historic buildings in America.  They are heroic places – often depicted in novels as mysterious or enchanted fortresses that keep mariners safe and good stories alive.  Many tales about lighthouses are true and some are fictious – like the Lighthouse Mystery, #8 in the Box Car Series or The Lighthouse Dog by Betty Waterton.

The people who inhabited the lighthouses were heroic too.  Like Abbie Burgess, who kept the light on Matinicus Rock going for 28 days.  Imagine what it must be like to live 26 miles out to sea on a small piece of land isolated from others. These government appointees depended on their families to keep the giant fresnal lighthouse lenses with thousands of tiny prisms going.  Who were these brave people and what did they do all day?  How do you become a lighthouse keeper anyway?  How do you get your food, medicine, and mail?  What about Christmas?  How does Santa Clause know where lighthouses are located on the coast?

In early October 2011, Island Readers & Writers organized a tour with author Toni Buzzeo and her book Lighthouse Christmas with illustrations by Nancy Carpenter.  The tour began on October 3, 2011 with a visit to Swan’s Island and Frenchboro and continued on to Vinalhaven, Deer Isle, Islesboro and connect via the internet with four other island schools.  Lighthouse Christmas is based on a true story about The Flying Santa Service.  Established in 1929 by pilot William Wincapaw to honor the lighthouse keepers in Maine, specifically those who lived on islands in Penobscot Bay.

Discussion questions, a play, and a list of book related activities were designed in preparation for Toni’s visit and the reading of Lighthouse Christmas. Visit the For the Educators section of this website or for more information and related book lists.


Toni was the first author to participate in an IRW program. Using finger puppets, flannel board, and her personal enthusiasm for teaching and learning, Toni read and discussed her books with approximately 58 children during six different presentations. Whew!

As a result of Toni’s visits, early IRW organizers confirmed their belief that kids, islands, books, authors and illustrators are a magical combination.

Toni has visited the following schools: Mount Desert Elementary School, Frenchboro, Swan’s Island, Vinalhaven , Deer Isle-Stonington, Islesboro and via Internet conferencing Matinicus, Monhegan, Isle au Haute and Cliff Island.

Toni’s books include: Dawdle Duckling, Little Loon and Papa, The Sea ChestLighthouse Christmas

Watch videos of Toni talking about IRW: