Eyes Of The Calusa by Holly Moulder (book review)

Holly Moulder, Eyes Of The Calusa (Sharpburg, GA: White Pelican Press, 2007)
ISBN 10: 0-9790405-0-7
ISBN 13: 978-09790405-0-4 109 pp $8.95

Holly Moulder is one of Coweta County's most highly respected elementary school teachers -- so much so that she has received two different "Teacher of The Year" awards. In 2006 she left the classroom with the purpose of writing good quality historical fiction which will encourage students to read. Her debut story Eyes Of The Calusa achieved that goal so well that it won a Silver Medal from the Florida Publishers Association and is winning plaudits from area teachers who are using it in their classes. Moulder is making it easy for them to do so by providing laminated posters and Teachers Guide Worksheets which can be used in conjunction with the book.

I have read many historical writings and many fictional writings about Indians but I had never heard of the Calusa tribe before. But, not only was it a real tribe but an important one as well -- at one time they occupied half of Florida. Moulder's story concerns a girl named Mara who belongs to this tribe. In the narration we learn of this tribe and of other eighteenth century area phenomena such as pirates, slavery, and the operation of an indigo plantation in South Carolina. Blackbeard the pirate is in the story. All the other characters are fictional.

The climax of the story is a powerful moral dilemma which confronts Mara and her response to it with a wisdom beyond her years. This is a very interesting story, which is not quite like anything else I have ever read. Like all well-written books for children, an adult can enjoy them and be edified by them even more. I highly recommend reading this book and encouraging schools to use it.

The only uncertainty here is the exact age classification of the book. The very beginning of the first page of the White Pelican Press brochure describes their books as "Historical Fiction for middle grades". But directly under that it notes that Eyes Of The Calusa won the Silver Medal for "Young Adult Fiction". And the top of the back cover of the book calls it "Young Adult Historic Fiction". I would caution anyone intending to check it out of a public library to be sure to read the catalog information carefully to see whether the book is located in their Children's Library or their Young Adults Library.

There is historical information in an Author's Notes section at the end of the book, which includes a bibliography.

Both the book cover and the website (www.WhitePelicanPress.com) are well designed. The author is also becoming well-known in the area for the talks she gives not only about the book but even about the writing process involved in producing it.

Holly Moulder is a welcome addition to the Southside writing scene. You can sure we will be hearing more of her in the future.

Available via bookstores and libraries.

Forrest Schultz is the leader of the Coweta Writers Group, which is growing by leaps and bounds, and the writer of the Coweta Arts Tidbits news releases, which cover the burgeoning Coweta arts scene.

An archive of Forrest's articles is located here.

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