(Maureen) Mollie Hunter (McIlwraith)

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Janet Hickman

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Certainly it is hard to imagine how one could bring more of self to writing than [Mollie Hunter] does. Cultural heritage, life circumstances, love of language, passionate convictions—all the influences on the storyteller are in the stories. (p. 302)

If you cannot visit Scotland for yourself, Mollie Hunter's books are an agreeable substitute…. All of her writing demonstrates her deep feeling for the land where she was born….

The settings of her books are not just faithfully represented, they are evoked….

It is not only the author's ability to call up the sights of her country that makes Scotland so memorable in her books. She has long been interested in its history and folklore, and has expert knowledge in both fields. (p. 303)

All her books of fantasy are rooted in this intimate knowledge of folk culture…. In The Kelpie's Pearls, white witchcraft and a legendary water spirit in the guise of a horse are put in a modern context. The Selkie Folk and trows and sidhe of whom she writes are creatures of fantasy, but their origins are tied to the world we call real….

Another significant part of Mollie Hunter's writing is historical fiction, a reflection of her interest in Scotland's past…. In her words, she carries "a fairly full and accurate picture of my own country's history in my mind." She brings that picture to life in such books as The Spanish Letters, [The Ghosts of Glencoe, and A Pistol in Greenyards]. (pp. 303-05)

Her natural inclination to tell stories is as much a part of her work as is her passion for history or her knowledge of folklore…. She cares intensely about the right word. (p. 305)

Mollie Hunter is a self-made scholar whose lack of formal education has not kept her from learning, or from achieving. Her characters, too, are frequently unschooled; but they have native intelligence, a wisdom that cannot be taught, and an admirable eagerness to learn. One thinks of the brilliance of Coll's imagination in The Stronghold, of Torquil with his gift of King Solomon's Ring in The Kelpie's Pearls, and of Adam in The 13th Member, whom the alchemist calls "this most teachable of boys."

Again like Bridie [the protagonist of A Sound of Chariots], Mollie Hunter's characters are most often intense, strong-willed, passionate, outspoken. (pp. 305-06)

Passing on stories is the endeavor to which Mollie Hunter is most deeply committed. The strength of that commitment and her sense of responsibility to children are evident in her book of essays, Talent Is Not Enough. The title essay … paraphrases Emerson: "There must be a person behind the book." Mollie Hunter is the person behind all her books—a complex, caring, vividly alive person. She and her books are well worth knowing. (p. 306)

Janet Hickman, "The Person Behind the Book—Mollie Hunter" (copyright © 1979 by the National Council of Teachers of English; reprinted by permission of the publisher and the author), in Language Arts, Vol. 56, No. 3, March, 1979, pp. 302-03, 305-06.

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