Calico Captive

Calico Captive

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.

Mingled with her thoughts of Phineas Whitney, her sweetheart on his way to Harvard, is the crying of her sisters baby, Captive, born on the trail.

Reviews of the Calico Captive

Calico Captive is a fictionalized version of a few years in the life of Miriam Willard, a teenage girl who is kidnapped from her home in Charleston, New Hampshire by the Abenaki Indians in 1754, along with her very pregnant sister Susanna Johnson, Susanna's husband James, and their three young children, two-year-old Polly, four-year-old Susanna, and six-year-old Sylvanus.

I mean, it did win the Newbery (and more recently than 'Witch'). George makes Susanna's younger sister, Miriam Willard, the protagonist of her tale. More headstrong and impetuous than her practical sister, Miriam prejudges Indians and French, then finds herself questioning those prejudices.

(It's historically accurate but pretty sad that this character doesn't change her mind any even when a white guy tries to explain some basic "they were here first" morality.) Speare wisely chooses to make Mrs. Johnson's younger sister Miriam Willard her protagonist. And in both novel and memoir, Susanna is heavily pregnant when their captivity begins. Speare sticks close to her source material all through Miriam's journey with her family to St. Francis. One detail I found interesting was that in the novel, Susanna gives birth to a baby during this forced march and names her Captive. In the novel, Miriam is a crucial participant in a dramatic rescue; in the memoir, it's a male neighbor who'd been taken captive in the same raid who saves the baby's life. He feels like a character invented solely for a potential love-triangle, and in fact Speare offers a bit of romantic drama from him that's crucial to the plot but entirely fictional. Apparently, this is an accurate representation of Miriam's feelings, as this line from Susanna's memoir makes clear: "My sister observed, that, if I could have been left behind, our trouble would have been seemingly nothing." Once the captives reach St. Francis and then white Canada, Speare drifts from her source material in order to introduce the obligatory love triangle and a rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-freedom story based entirely on a single sentence from the captivity narrative: "Miriam had supported herself by her needle in the family of the lieutenant governor, where she was treated extremely well." Susanna Johnson's captivity narrative is available online fer free; so if you read Calico Captive, you can then read the real story for yourself right here:

A girl notices how a young man looks at her and makes her uncomfortable. A young man compliments a girl and touches her curls. A girl spends time with a young man and he touches her elbow and holds her hand while walking. That night she thinks about him and another guy she likes.

She was able to use all of the danger and intrigue of the past -- witch trials in Puritan New England, terrifying Indian raids on the frontier -- as a backdrop for the heroine's romantic adventures, in a way that made every page seem to turn by itself!

I have lived all my life in New England, and though I love to travel I can't imagine ever calling any other place on earth home. I turned naturally to the things which had filled my days and thoughts and began to write magazine articles about family living.

  • English

  • Historical

  • Rating: 3.96
  • Pages: 288
  • Publish Date: October 29th 2001 by HMH Books for Young Readers
  • Isbn10: 0618150765
  • Isbn13: 9780618150762