Eyes of the Calusa
White Pelican Press (2007)
Reviewed by Ben Weldon (age10) for Reader Views (4/08)
“Eyes of the Calusa” by Holly Moulder is the story of Mara, a Calusa Indian from the southwest coast of Florida, who is captured by pirates and sold into slavery. Mara’s adventure starts when her younger sister Lupa loses her doll, and Mara tries to help her find it. While searching the sand dunes, pirates are suddenly upon them. Mara’s hands are bound and a rag stuffed in her mouth. Will Mara ever be free again?
It is about the year 1720 and Mara is taken aboard the Devil Ray. The pirate ship is commanded by Captain Hannah Dunne who loathes and despises natives and captures them and sells them as slaves in Charlestown, South Carolina. Mara is sold to the Stanley family which runs a large indigo plantation. As a slave, her jobs include spreading and drying the indigo leaves in the hot sun and transporting stale slave urine (the urine was a key, but very stinky, ingredient in making the indigo dye).
Although Mara is a fictional character, things like what happened to Mara did happen. At the end of the book, there is a very informative Author’s Note that explains what is true and what is not. For example, the Calusa Indians really did exist and stale urine was used in making indigo dye. Mara’s story was truly captivating, and it is terrible to think that some people really suffered this fate.
I was surprised to find that the first five-and-a-half chapters are written in verse (like a poem) and the rest of the book is not. Readers should not be scared away by this because it is still easy-to-understand. This is Holly Moulder’s first novel, and it is a well-written combination of adventure and history.
I would recommend “Eyes of the Calusa” to people who like adventure, pirates and action. This book has no bad words and nothing offensive. I really liked this book and think lots of other people will, too.