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Lighthouse Book for Children Can Be a Beacon of Learning
Thursday, January 29, 1998  —  Charleston Post and Courier

IN SPOTLIGHT: Local author and former teacher Margie W Clary has written her second book, "Searching The Lights", which is available in bookstores.

The Morris Island lighthouse is the focus of Margie W. Clary's second book for children.

The James Island resident's first book, "A Sweet, Sweet Basket", was listed among Smithsonian magazine's 1995 Notable Books For Children.

That book led to the new one, "Searching The Lights", published by Sandlapper Publishing Co. and now available in bookstores.

At a book signing for "Basket", a teacher told Clary that a book about South Carolina lighthouses was needed.

"First of all, I'm a teacher," said Clary, who wrote lots of stories to educate youngsters during her 33 years as a teacher and as a professional storyteller before becoming a published author. "Children learn through stories, and that's why I think this is important."

"Searching The Lights" was the product of more than one coincidence. "It seemed like every time I turned around, there was somebody talking about the lighthouse", Clary said.

It is also a product of her family.

Jill Martine Clary, now 9, asked her grandmother to come to Career Day at Westview Elementary School in Goose Creek in 1996. There Margie Clary met artist Valerie Jeanne Luedtke and asked if she had ever worked on books. She hadn't, but when Clary returned to Career Day in 1997, she asked Luedtke to create the art for "Searching".

Clary's great-nephew, Hampton Young, a student at Laing Middle School, became the model for Jim, the main character in "Searching".

Jim, who lives on Oak Island, can see the Morris Island lighthouse from his home. Lamenting the fact that he has to spend a weekend working on a school paper, he stands looking out the window at the Folly River and the lighthouse.

Every time Jim looks at the lighthouse, he has a vague memory of his father, who was killed in the Gulf War.

The lighthouse, memories, the school paper and family come together quite nicely in truth and fiction.

"Searching The Lights" is dedicated to the preservation of the Morris Island lighthouse and to Clary's family "because everybody helped".

Nephew Michael Willis of Laurens took photographs of marsh scenes for Luedtke.

Some of the lighthouse photos in the back of "Searching", including the one of the Morris Island lighthouse, were taken by son Wayne Clary of Goose Creek.

Jill Clary and her mother, Debbie Clary, wrote a poem included in the book.

"This book was meant to be", Margie Clary said of all the coincidences that helped produce it.

At a funeral, she ran into a woman from Daufuskie Island who went to school with her daughter. Clary learned that the woman had lived in the Haig Point lighthouse.

While doing research, she ran into someone who had spent a lonely summer visiting his grandfather who had been a lighthouse caretaker.

In "Searching The Lights", readers might recognize Robert Gillgrist of West Ashley, who modeled for Jim's grandfather and attends Vine Life Church on Orleans Road where Luedtke is a member, too.

The storybook includes a section of photographs and short histories of lighthouses, which Sandlapper has published in a booklet, "Carolina Lights: The Beacons of South Carolina".

©1998  Charleston Post and Courier  —  All Rights Reserved.
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