Charles A. Salter is the author of The Secret of Bald Rock Island:
Can Kelcie solve the island’s TWO mysteries in time? Ten-year-old Kelcie Oglethorpe’s fisherman father disappeared at sea years ago. Since then, Kelcie has befriended Bald Rock Island’s beloved Mr. Bartleby, a kindly man devoted to the village and its children. He often warns of a mysterious creature he once saw on the island’s bald dome which towers a hundred feet above the sea, yet is hollow inside and connected to sea life by underground channels. Kelcie decides to help Mr. Bartleby solve the island’s two enduring mysteries-what happened to her father, and what the sea creature might be. She learns that Mr. Bartleby was her father’s lifelong best friend. During that terrible storm off the coast of Maine, Mr. Bartleby risked his own life to do everything possible to save Kelcie’s dad, but no sign was ever found. Kelcie criss-crosses the island in search of clues and thinks she knows where she can find the ultimate answers. She resolves to explore the forbidden area of the island, and as she puts the final pieces of the puzzle together, a new storm arises. Can she solve the mysteries and return to safety before the new storm claims her as the previous one did her father? And what will she do when she finally confronts the mysterious creature face to face?
Read on for an interview with Charles and an excerpt from the book.
Q: What inspired you to create this series?
A: For the past few years I have become increasingly concerned about the trend in our society to infantilize young people and make them dependent on the ‘nanny state’ rather than independent and mature adults who can help lead our society into the future. I hope my series will help young people realize they do possess heroic qualities and can make a difference by standing for what they believe and seeking to help others.
Q: Who is the character Kelcie based on?
A: Kelcie is a composite of my two daughters. Out of the entire series so far, volume #1 is the only one set in the past—about one generation ago. At that time, my now-adult daughters were children and we often went to Maine (the location for this novel). We saw and experienced the kinds of places described in the book!
Q: What do you hope both your young readers and the parents of those readers take away from the books?
A: Family and friends in this series clearly cherish and care for each other. I would hope these stories would encourage both parents and young readers to do the same. I would hope that young readers would learn the importance of going beyond having a good attitude about others and translating that into real action to help when needed. And I hope parents will learn the wisdom of sometimes stepping back and letting kids work through their own solutions to life’s problems and issues…yet also be available when those kids ask for help.
Q: How did your experience as a parent and grandparent influence The Secret of Bald Rock Island?
A: I have always tried to encourage my own children and grandchildren to become independent and make their own decisions about which sports, activities, and careers to choose. I taught them to stand up for what they believe. And this is exactly what Kelcie’s mother and dear family friend, Mr. Bartleby, do for her in this book. As Kelcie comes to grips with the loss of her father years earlier, both adults encourage and help her to work through that process in a mature way.
Q: Did you pull from your background in psychology when writing this series? If so, in what way?
A: As everyone knows, much of psychology focuses on mental illness and other pathological conditions. But part of the field focuses instead on fostering close and healthy relationships, particularly among parents and children. One area of thought and research in psychology which has always interested me is that about not simply telling kids what to do, but rather encouraging them to think through problems and issues so they can come up with their own insights and solutions. And that is exactly how the adults in this book handle Kelcie’s quest to solve the mysteries of Bald Rock Island.
Q: The Secret of Bald Rock Island is the first of the Kare Kids Adventures Series. When will the next book come out?
A: In book #2, CHARLOTTE AND THE MYSTERIOUS VANISHING PLACE, Kelcie is now grown up and her 9-year-old daughter is the star. Charlotte discovers a serious environmental danger in the woods and does everything she can to alert authorities and rescue two trapped puppies. This book is due out on July 1 of this year. In book #3, HOW THREE BROTHERS SAVED THE NAVY, Charlotte’s three cousins uncover a terrorist plot to destroy their navy father’s ship. They show great courage and ingenuity in ferreting out the details and then thwarting the plot. That book is due out in early August. Charlotte’s twin brother and sister should be coming along some time in early fall in book #4, in THE TRAVEL TWINS AND THE LOST SECRET OF THE VIKINGS. This book’s plot unfolds on a scary (but real) train winding its way high in the beautiful mountains of Norway. Felons with mysterious motives have stolen the famed Leif Erikson Sunstone from their uncle’s Viking museum in Oslo, and the twins decide to get it back.
In all of these books, the Kare Kids can’t rely on magic or super powers to solve their problems. They are realistic kids who live in the real world…BUT they know how to act independently and to translate caring from a mere attitude into genuine action to solve the problems they encounter.
On the lonely island of Bald Rock, off the coast of Maine, the children often gathered about the bench under the spreading oak in the park where old Mr. Bartleby usually sat in good weather, feeding the pigeons. After some warm smiles and greetings and plenty of sharing of the bread crumbs to toss at the birds, he would tell a few jokes. As the nearby kids laughed, others would circle closer and ask for favorite stories. And the most favorite of all was his warning about what to do when the mysterious creature who haunted the island next came back.
“Children,” grinned the old man in a red Scottish tam o’ shanter—a traditional Scotsman’s beret or cap—plaid sports jacket, and starched fine trousers with a perfect crease down each leg, “the next time the ground of the island quivers and shakes like an earthquake, you stay on this side of the island, where the oak and white pine trees grow, where the soil runs deep. Stay away from the Bald Dome that rises on the far side, where there’s no soil to speak of and nothing can grow but weeds and wildflowers in the spring.”
“Why?” would ask one of the younger children, who had never heard the story before, or one of the older ones who wanted to hear it again.
“Because a quaking and shuddering is a sure sign that the Bald Rock Monster is rustling about. You see, children”—and here he would often look seriously at each young face in turn before continuing—“the rock atop Ol’ Baldie is thin and weak. There’s not much holding it up. Underneath lies the open cavern filled with the great roiling sea, the waves surging in and out as the tide flows through channels in the rock. When it’s stormy and near dark you can see the water spouting out of the blow hole at the top. I was up there one evening in 1980 and saw the most frightful sight of my life.”
By this time the children would stop bouncing their balls or poking their neighbors and would have wide eyes glancing about the small island at the little dark patches behind trees and shrubs. Or they might look straight into Old Bartleby’s kindly face for some reassurance that no creature was heading this way right now. His face was honest and strong, one a wee bit weatherbeaten by middle age and riding out strong winter storms and tending his garden during the hot sunny days of summer. But he still had no trace of age spots on his caring face, one which lit up with smile creases rather than frown lines whenever he heartily laughed.
The older children knew from their lessons in the village school that what Old Bartleby said about the island was true. It sat alone, several miles from the mainland coast, near a sharp drop from the continental shelf. Beyond this point the Atlantic Ocean quickly descended to great depths. The half of the island on the secure side was strongly grounded to the earth deep beneath. But the half on the exposed, storm-tossed side, had vast caverns below the visible top, and the constant pounding of the ocean continued to carve out the insides in every direction, leaving only a thin layer of rock along the top. It was much like a hollow skull there, with nothing but a single layer of bone holding it up.
“What did you see?” one of the children would gasp at this point.
“Why, I looked straight into the blow hole and saw the most enormous eye staring right back at me! The most ghastly sight! It had to be a foot across if it was an inch!”
Some kids usually squealed at this point, and littler brothers or sisters might take their older siblings’ hands.
Bartleby would continue, “That’s why I carry a harpoon head as my knife in this here sheath.” He would lift the flap of his jacket so they could see. “Always. I’m always ready if he comes back.”
He would look at the group that remained and then smile. “But you’ll be safe if you stay here on the grounded side. Just don’t go on the hollow side, for if he comes back and breaks through the surface…well, I’m not sure what might happen. But rocks would come tumbling down from every direction and anyone standing there might fall straight through into the dark sea. We wouldn’t want that to happen, now would we?”
They would solemnly nod their assent, some of their faces noticeably paler than before. “No, sir, Mr. Bartleby! No, sir!”
“Now you run along, children, and let me finish feeding the pigeons and reading the paper.”
Nearly all the children would dash away at that point, back to their games in the playing field, or back toward their homes and dinners and warm beds in the small village.
Often 10-year-old Kelcie would be the only one left to linger behind and ask him more questions.
Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Charles A. Salter, Ph.D., S.D. served 28 years in the U.S. Army after seven and a half years as an assistant professor and then tenured associate professor at Spring Hill College. He holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania (1973) and a Doctor of Science in public health from Harvard University (1989). He was licensed as a psychologist by the state of Massachusetts, as a nutritionist by the state of Maryland, and was a charter member of the Prescribing Psychologists Register.
He has written on family matters for the newspaper syndicate Scripps-Howard, Today’s Family, Life and Health, Woman’s World and more. He is the author of sixteen books, most recently the adult fiction series The Ebay Detective. The Kare Kids Adventures series are his first books in middle grade fiction. Charles currently resides in Maryland.