Calico Captive

by Elizabeth George Speare

Hardcover, 1957

Call number

J FIC SPE

Publication

Houghton Mifflin (1957), 274 pages

Description

Juvenile Fiction. Historical Fiction. HTML: In the year 1754, the stillness of Charlestown, New Hampshire, is shattered by the terrifying cries of an Indian raid. Young Miriam Willard, on a day that had promised new happiness, finds herself instead a captive on a forest trail, caught up in the ebb and flow of the French and Indian War. It is a harrowing march north. Miriam can only force herself to the next stopping place, the next small portion of food, the next icy stream to be crossed. At the end of the trail waits a life of hard work and, perhaps, even a life of slavery. Mingled with her thoughts of Phineas Whitney, her sweetheart on his way to Harvard, is the crying of her sister's baby, Captive, born on the trail. Miriam and her companions finally reach Montreal, a city of shifting loyalties filled with the intrigue of war, and here, by a sudden twist of fortune, Miriam meets the prominent Du Quesne family, who introduce her to a life she has never imagined. Based on an actual narrative diary published in 1807, Calico Captive skillfully reenacts an absorbing facet of history..… (more)

Media reviews

Booklist
Convincing historical romance set during the French and Indian War.
3 more
The Horn Book
Superior historical fiction.
Saturday Review
The story moves swiftly from the first chapter to the last....An exciting novel.
Kirkus Reviews
Vital and vivid, this short novel based on the actual captivity of a pre-Revolutionary girl of Charlestown, New Hampshire, presens American history with force and verve.

User reviews

LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare recounts the true story of the James Johnson family who, in August of 1754, were taken by Indians from their home in New Hampshire. Captain Johnson, along with his wife, Susanna, and their children were forced marched north to Montreal and held for ransom.
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Along with them was a younger sister of Susanna’s, Miriam Willard. When Susanna was seventy years old, she wrote an account of this event, and this account was used by the author to create this story of Miriam’s adventures.

Although terrified by their ordeal, this family were lucky that they were kept alive. In later days of the French and Indian War, often prisoners were killed and scalped. These scalps were then purchased by the French. Before arriving at Montreal the family were separated, with Susanna, her new born baby and her young son being kept by the Indians. The father, Miriam and two younger girls went on to Montreal. The little girls were farmed out and taken into families, Miriam put to work as a maid for a wealthy family and Captain Johnson put in prison. How this family tried to reunite and return to America made for a very interesting story.

As this book is meant for the younger YA audience, I found it a bit simplified, but nevertheless, it’s a vivid account of how this war affected one family. A convincing historical fiction story that kept the pages turning. Elizabeth George Speare, is best known as the author of Newberry Medal winners, The Witch of Blackbird Pond and The Bronze Bow.
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LibraryThing member Kace
Loved this book. Its written for the younger crowd and based on a true story of a family captured by Native Americans and sold into slavery to the British. Before I read this book, I didn't have a clue that this was apart of the history. It's incredible, the lack of my knowledge, I know. A family
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of white settlers survives the Indians capture, sold into British slavery, half are thrown in the stockades, and then their journey home. It held my attention several reads through, and its one I'll recommend to my own kids when they're older.
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LibraryThing member BrynDahlquis
You read through it really fast and mildly enjoy the ride, but when you close the book, you realize that absolutely nothing happened. At all.
LibraryThing member fuzzi
As I had just read another 'captive' book, I decided to try this one.

As with "Indian Captive", this is based upon a true story as told by a woman who was taken prisoner by Indians in the early colonial days of the United States. However, this book is definitely geared more toward a youth audience,
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and not as interesting to me as other more 'adult' books of this genre.

Still, it was entertaining, and worth at least one read, especially if the subject interests you.
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LibraryThing member satyridae
This is not my usual fare, not by a long shot. It somehow ended up on my To-Be-Read shelves, probably a leftover from one of the book exchanges. I was pleasantly surprised to find it a well-written and deeply engaging story. The romance was... well, romancey enough, but easy to ignore. The
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portrayal of the Natives who captured the English family of the protagonist was fairly one-sided and prejudicial- but rang quite true from their point of view. I wish they'd been captured longer because that was the most interesting part of the story for me. On the other hand, the portrait of Montreal was also very interesting, if less fraught with peril. The quiet fortitude of the older sister was admirable, and the bootstrap-yanking younger sister struck me as having that quintessentially American 'pioneer spirit' we US citizens learn about in school.
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LibraryThing member mephistia
This is one of those books (like Johnny Tremain) that I read as a kid, and while I never did own a copy, I checked it out from the library so often it was at my house more often than at the library.

It follows the story of Miriam, a young English colonial, who is captured by Indians during the
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French and Indian war. She's sold as a slave to some French Quebecoise, where she begins to make a name for herself as a seamstress.

However, Miriam was not the only one captured -- her sister, nieces and nephew were also captured and enslaved. Miriam and her sister are faced with many hard choices as they try to pay their slave debts (if I recall, it's been a while since I read it) in Quebec, bring their family back together and eventually make their way home.

As Miriam's seamstress business becomes more successful, she's courted by a handsome French soldier -- a moral dilemma, as he's allied with the same Indians who attacked her colony, and he fights and kills the British colonials she loves. At the same time, he helps her track down her scattered nieces and nephew, and assists Miriam in widening her clientele base.

I've always loved this book, though I have to admit I rooted for the French solider. I always wanted Miriam to marry him and leave her stodgy English roots. Apparently the book is based on the diary of a real-life Miriam who actually experienced these events (I guess they left out all the rape-iness), so extra points for bringing history alive.
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LibraryThing member Ma_Washigeri
Like many other readers I had this book over and over from the library when I was growing up. Some 40 years later I got myself a copy (ex library to my delight) from abebooks and re-read it. Oddly my memories of the book have hardly been touched by the later reading - I can still remember how I
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felt about it 40 years ago (identifying deeply with quite a few of the characters, not just the main girl) but hardly remember how I felt a few months ago reading it again.
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LibraryThing member wichitafriendsschool
Early one morning in the year 1754 the stillness of Charlestown, New Hampshire, was shattered by shrill war whoops and the terror of an Indian raid. Young Miriam Willard, on a day which had promised new happiness, found herself instead a captive on a forest trail, caught up in the ebb and flow of
Show More
the French and Indian War.It was a horrowing march north. Miriam could only force herself to the next stopping place, the next small portion of food, the next icy stream to be crossed. What waits at the end of the trail--besides an Indian quantlet and a life of slavery?
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LibraryThing member Ma_Washigeri
Like many other readers I had this book over and over from the library when I was growing up. Some 40 years later I got myself a copy (ex library to my delight) from abebooks and re-read it. Oddly my memories of the book have hardly been touched by the later reading - I can still remember how I
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felt about it 40 years ago (identifying deeply with quite a few of the characters, not just the main girl) but hardly remember how I felt a few months ago reading it again.
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LibraryThing member Marypo
It's hard to describe what about this book so beautifully captures the feel of the places and interactions it describes. It took me back to my days of tramping through forests and gave me the opportunity to vicariously experience frontier life in such a memorable way.
The main character starts out
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somewhat shallow and self-focused, but her character arc is what holds the story together and what kept me glued to the pages as I read the book cover to cover in a morning. It's that transformation, how the main character dealt with loss and loneliness, how her attitude toward people changed, how she put her skills to use for those she cared about that made the book what it is. She starts out drawn to shiny things, but the author makes sure the redeemable aspects of her character perk through the immaturity.
As with nearly every book, however, there are things to sift through. I wouldn't give this to a younger reader unless they are old enough to discern what should not be emulated and if the content issues mentioned later aren't an issue.
There's a shift away from materialism here, but to me it seems the mc goes from one extreme to another, from finding happiness in things to finding happiness in people. For one, it's a lot of pressure on the other person to be someone else's happiness, and it's just not lasting. Also, there were some things with relationships and religion that might not be suitable for younger readers as well. But since this book is geared towards younger readers, the author glossed over the scenes with childbirth, innuendo, and such. And the theme of valuing people above "shiny things" is laudable.
I can't say, however, that this is an accurate representation of the people the author used for inspiration. It seemed she took parts and changed people to fit her story, so it should be read as fiction, not as the story of the people whose names she borrowed.

And finally, here's a quote that portrays Miriam's character quite well:

"There is something you can do," she said soberly. "If you really want to help me. No one will listen. Can you get me into the jail to visit my sister?"
Pierre stared at her. Then suddenly he threw back his head and laughed so loudly that a passing Frenchman paused in the street and peered in through the doorway.
"What a girl!" He exclaimed. "Offer her a dress, invite her to a party, and what does she want instead - to go to jail."
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LibraryThing member jjmcgaffey
Excellent. Speare really knows how to write people of all sorts. The young Puritan(? Protestant, anyway) woman, the Indians who capture her (and make assumptions), her patient and stubborn sister (also captured), the noble and common folk of Montreal they end up with... There are fools, and cruel
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people, and decent people, and kind people in every group, and Speare manages to show all of them as...just people, doing what they think is right. The story is good, though I thought Marian was rather frivolous-minded every chance she got. Well, she's a teenager, she's more or less entitled to that particular form of idiocy - and she did manage a solution that kept them going as long as they needed to. Good story, worth reading, probably worth rereading.
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Awards

Sequoyah Book Award (Nominee — Children's — 1960)

Pages

274

ISBN

0395071127 / 9780395071120
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