Charlie Pierce, that pioneering Florida youngster with a penchant for hard work and adventure, is at it again in The Barefoot Mailman (Middle River Press, $19.95), the fourth installment of The Adventures of Charlie Pierce written by West Palm Beach attorney Harvey E. Oyer III. A fifth-generation Floridian, Oyer is a descendant of the real Charlie Pierce upon whom the children’s fiction series is based. “Charlie Pierce led one of the most extraordinary lives of any Floridian,” Oyer says. “When he arrived in South Florida as an 8-year-old in 1872, [the area] was a wild jungle frontier inhabited by only Seminole Indians. By the end of his life, he had witnessed and participated in the development of the South Florida we know today.” Oyer released his first Charlie Pierce story in 2008 with the goal of combining Florida history and fiction to teach kids about the state’s textured past. The series has received wide acclaim, and the second book, The American Jungle, is required reading for half of the state’s fourth-grade students. The Barefoot Mailman is inspired by the true story of Ed Hamilton, who carried mail from Palm Beach to Miami. Following Hamilton’s disappearance, Charlie must take over his beachside route and become the Barefoot Mailman. Below, Oyer talks with PBI.com about the inspiration behind the series.
PBI.com: What inspired you to write this series?
Oyer: My inspiration for writing the book series was to fundamentally change the way the next generation of Florida’s leaders and voters view and understand our state’s unique history and resources (i.e. water supply, ecosystems, coral reefs, etc.) so that they grow up to make better decisions for our state. This sounds like a very lofty goal and, indeed, it is. However, more than 100,000 fourth graders per year read my books. Someday, we will have millions of Florida voters with a much better understanding of what makes Florida special and how best to preserve and protect that.
|Harvey E. Oyer III|
How would you describe the character of Charlie Pierce?
Charlie Pierce was hardworking, honest, and possessed great moral character. He is an ideal role model for the children who read about him. In real life, he was also a visionary, a survivor, and a great adventurer and explorer. In 2009, he was posthumously honored as a Great Floridian and his plaque hangs in the rotunda of the capitol in Tallahassee.
What do you most enjoy about combining history and fiction to build a compelling narrative?
Combining real Florida history and fiction allows me to teach children about Florida’s unique and fascinating history with characters and dialogue they can relate to. The readers are completely enthralled in a storyline and don’t even realize they are learning all of the facts they aren’t willing to learn from a textbook.
What do you hope kids gain from reading your books?
My hope is that all of my readers, children and adults alike, learn about the history, geography, and natural world of Florida to such a degree that they experience the same genuine love and appreciation for our state that I feel. I want Charlie Pierce’s cool adventures and moral lessons to stay with the reader forever, providing guidance to the readers as they grow up, formulate their belief systems, and assume the leadership roles in our society. I want the books to have profound and lasting impressions.