HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Adventures of Charlie Pierce, Volume 3: The Last Calusa
Author: Harvey E. Oyer III
Illustrator: James Balkovek
Publisher: Middle River Press, 2012
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 10-14
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Oyer, Harvey E. III. The Adventures of Charlie Pierce, Volume 3: The Last Calusa (published in 2012 by Middle River Press). Do you know what a “Calusa” is? Is it animal, vegetable, mineral, or what? It is the late 1800s, and Charlie Pierce lives with his parents and younger sister Lillie on Hypoluxo Island near Lake Worth in the area that later became known as Palm Beach in Florida. Charlie is trying to make some money for a new violin by planting pineapple plants for his Uncle Will, getting $1 for every thousand plants. However, it’s hard work and pineapple plants are notoriously unfriendly. So, when another job opportunity comes along, he jumps at the chance. Dr. George Livingston, a well-known naturalist and Professor at Yale, has heard of Charlie’s abilities as a guide into the Pa-Hay-Okee swamp, or the Everglades, and comes with his assistant Jonathan Bartley and a specimen of Dendrophylax lindenii or ghost orchid to ask Charlie to guide them into the swamp to find rare species of orchids.
So, with the promise of $5 a day, Charlie, his Seminole friend Tiger Bowlegs, who is promised $1 a day as first mate, and Lillie, who can get around in the woods as well as anyone, fix up the Creole, an old boat belonging to Charlie’s father, and lead Dr. Livingston and Mr. Bartley into the swamp. Dr. Livingston asks if they are going to sail through the same waters as the famous Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon. Along the way, Livingston and Bartley explain that de Leon, searching for the Fountain of Youth, met up with a band of Native Americans called the Calusas in the swamp and died as a result of being shot by one of their poison arrows. After they get into the swamp, Tiger thinks that something or someone is following them. Lillie begins to become suspicious of the Professor since the papers which he keeps looking at are not plant guides but old maps. Then Dr. Livingston disappears. What is he really searching for? Who or what is following them? And will they ever make it out of the swamp alive?
This is the third book in “The Adventures of Charlie Pierce” series by Harvey E. Oyer III, after The American Jungle and The Last Egret, the latter of which I have read and reviewed. Charlie was a real person, and the author is his great-grandnephew. Oyer does an excellent job weaving a lot of factual information about Florida’s history, geography, flora, and fauna into a thrilling fictional story that will appeal to readers of all ages, both boys and girls, though boys will especially appreciate the exciting adventure. There is also a strong emphasis on the importance of conservation. I am not a native of Florida, but I went to college near Tampa, and as a result of that we have had many opportunities to visit the state through the years. It certainly has a lot of natural beauty. Young people can greatly benefit from reading about what life was like during “pioneer days,” and the rich characterization in this book will draw their attention into the narrative. Anyone interested in South Florida and its history will find The Last Calusa fascinating.