Mystery for young readers has Cape Coral setting
Bunny Carmean, a retired, award-winning Caloosa Middle School teacher, has published a book for young readers, age 9-13, titled The Mystery of the Glow, an eco-mystery set in Cape Coral.
Carmean taught Language Arts at the Caloosa Middle School for 20 years, earning the Caloosa Middle School Teacher of the Year award twice, the Lee County Teachers of English award for Teacher of the Year at the middle school level, and the Chamber of Commerce Excellence in Education award for 2009, the year of her retirement.
The Mystery of the Glow is the resurrection of a book titled The Secret of R. Mony, which Carmean wrote in 1993 and shared only with her students, who used the nature story for a class project on environmental protection.
“Over the years, the book gathered dust on a shelf. Then in the late summer of 2013, as I walked on the Cape Coral Yacht Club pier looking in the water, the kids in the story-J. R., Twinks, and Nicci-pleaded with me to update it. I brushed the idea aside since I had hurt my back, limiting my computer usage. But then a miracle happened. That winter I was able to sit to type, so I updated the book, stressing modern-day issues. Now it’s an eco-mystery, and it has a new name, The Mystery of the Glow. It’s fiction, but the setting of Cape Coral is very real. Over 20 places around the city are in the mystery, which also features a bully, some Cape Coral soccer players, a feisty girl, a couple of crooks, and a mysterious creature.”
Carmean made her leading characters soccer players because her own three children were on Cape soccer travel teams. Ed and Bunny Carmean moved to Cape Coral from New Jersey in 1976, and opened the Parkmoor Restaurant on Cape Coral Parkway.
“I’m sure that many of our old customers remember (their children) practicing soccer in the parking lot.” One of the reasons the Carmeans “fell in love with Cape Coral” was “because it was a city with a small-town atmosphere.” In laid-back, small-town style, when the Carmean children had out-of-town games, their parents put a closed-for-soccer sign on the restaurant door and went with them. The teams’ victories were always celebrated by players and their parents in the Parkmoor.
Carmean’s award-winning teaching style was unusual but effective. Rather than teaching English composition and literature strictly from books, she made learning interactive for her students by asking them to write and perform their own versions of the plays and poems they studied.
“If I asked them to write a play, I figured I should do one, too,” she said.
Having asked her students to write a play called The Odyssey, Carmean wrote her own musical about Odysseus and years later, in 2008, her students enacted the play for the school assembly.
“I can still hear Lisa singing about Circe turning men into animals and see J.P. as Hermes, rumbling across the stage on a skateboard,” she reminisced.
Carmean’s students learned not only from writing and performing plays, but also from writing essays and poems. (One of Carmean’s own poems is in her book.)
“I loved sharing their writings. The personal fun of the essays was watching each and every person improve. Grading essays was like being on a treasure hunt, reading along and waiting for that special phrase or unique idea to pop up, and uncovering a student who was a hidden treasure with the true gift or passion for writing.”
Though the essential theme of Carmean’s book is environmental, The Mystery of the Glow also “leans heavily on STEM,” (science, technology, engineering and math); the kids use technology-computers, virtual reality, a 3 D printer, etc.-in their inventions and conversations. Her “reader-friendly and fast-paced book,” says Carmean, also addresses issues children have with divorce and with facing their fears.
Carmean herself learned a valuable lesson from writing her book.
“Never, ever quit. For my whole life, I wanted to write a book, and when I got hurt, I never thought I’d be holding this story in my hands. It took a miracle and the good luck of having attended the Lee County and Florida Writing Projects, which inspire writing.”
Carmean’s message is to “Keep the arts alive in the schools. I taught writing, but students learned the most in groups, writing, rapping, performing, singing and creating. Our country was built on creative minds.”
Her book’s message, says Carmean, is to “cherish our local waters.”
The Mystery of the Glow is available in Cape Coral at Carried Away, 1616 W. Cape Coral Parkway, Suite 108; Islands, 5785 Cape Harbour Drive, Suite 103; Unique Boutique, 1601 SE 46th Lane; and Donna’s Book Stop, 1343 S.E. 47th Terrace; at the Manatee Park gift shop, 10901 Palm Beach Boulevard, Fort Myers. Class sets with a free teacher’s edition are available at R.MonyFriends@gmail.com.