The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

November 24, 2012

‘Callie’ sequel looks at life after Civil War


DANVILLE — If you’ve read the first “Callie Hill” book and are eager to find out what happens as the child grows up, your wait is over. The sequel, “Callie Hill: New Beginnings, 1866-1874,” by Kathy Darding, is in stores.

Fans can follow Callie’s adventures as she takes a train ride to the North, falls in love and moves to Illinois, all set in the reconstruction period following the Civil War.

“It was fun plotting it all out and researching the cities,” Darding said. “These people are (almost) real to me.”

Darding will sign copies of her newest book — as well as two others, “Callie Hill: Child of the South, 1853-1865” and “Through Mitzy’s Eyes: A Dog’s Tale” — on Saturday, Dec. 1, at Glorie Bee Antiques in Covington, Ind.

Gloria Llewellyn, owner of the shop, enjoyed the first book so much that she can’t wait to start the sequel. “I’ll start it and won’t want to put it down,” she said. “I couldn’t wait for her to finish the sequel; you have to see what’s going to happen.”

For those who haven’t read the first book, the sequel fills in the background, she said. She described Callie as an “outstanding young lady who has a lot of adventures in her life.”

Llewellyn said she has signed copies of both “Callie” books in her store.

Darding’s first book was published in February 2011. In it, the child is raised by her father and grandparents at Oak Hill plantation, 50 miles northwest of Savannah, Ga. Her best friend is Trudy, a young slave. Darding brings in national events, and all the issues leading up to the Civil War, and then the effect of the war on the family.

The sequel starts with Callie turning 13, and follows her to age 21.

The war is over and the South is beginning to rebuild. Darding said that’s not her favorite time period, but, like the first book, she did a lot of research on it.

Chapter 4 took “forever” to write, she said. Callie’s father invests in the Georgia Central Railroad, and the family takes a two-month trip in 1869 to the North — to Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Chicago.

The family also spent several nights in Danville, where they stayed at the Aetna Hotel and ate at the McCormick House (where the family wasn’t welcomed because of their southern accents).

During this trip, Darding describes the new experiences that Callie has — such as seeing Lake Michigan — and gives the history of some of the places that she visits.

In 1871, Callie gets married and moves to Illinois — to Darding’s hometown of Benson.

A year ago, Darding visited Savannah, Ga., and used some of those sites in her book. The book also is available at the Savannah Visitor’s Center and at a gift shop in the city.

In the sequel, Darding ties up loose ends, adding, “I might be done with Callie for a while.”

That might be bad news for Callie fans, but Darding said maybe she’ll do another book somewhere down the line.

Darding had started writing the sequel even before the first book was published. Also during that time, she began the “Mitzy” book about her mother’s dog.

The idea for the book came about when her mother, Betty Meismer, said of the dog, “Don’t you wish you knew what she’s thinking?”

The book about the 9-year-old terrier is told in first person and is written for children. That book came out in May.

Putting the “Callie” story aside for awhile, Darding has started a fictionalized biography of her parents, who were married in 1948. Her mother lives in Danville; her father, Bob Meismer, died in 2003.

Darding said she gets her love of history from her father, who was a big Civil War buff and served in World War II. On family vacations, they would visit Civil War battlefields.

Darding had worked as a teacher at Honeywell Elementary School in Hoopeston and later as a substitute at Edison Elementary School in Danville. She also was on the staff of the Vermilion County Museum Society, and helped create the Historical School Program for area students.

Her books are published through PublishAmerica.

To buy books

Her books are available at Glorie Bee, the Fischer Theatre gift shop, A Novel Idea, Charlotte’s and the Vermilion County Museum gift shop. The books also are online at, and

You also may contact Darding by e-mailing

Darding also will sign books from 1-4 p.m. Dec. 15 during the county museum’s Christmas open house.


Kathy Darding will sign copies of her book, “Callie Hill: New Beginnings, 1866-1874,” during the holiday open house at Glorie Bee Antiques, 314 Liberty, Covington, Ind. The open house will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST Dec. 1, and Darding will be there from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. EST.

She also will have copies of “Callie Hill: Child of the South” and “Through Mitzy’s Eyes: A Dog’s Tale” available. Each “Callie” book is $20 or both for $35; “Mitzy” is $15; buy all three for $47. A “Callie” and a “Mitzy” are $32.