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Calico Captive Paperback – October 29, 2001

72 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Vital and vivid, this short novel based on the actual captivity of a pre-Revolutionary girl of Charlestown, New Hampshire, presents American history with force and verve." Kirkus Reviews

"Superior historical fiction." Horn Book

"Convincing historical romance set during the French and Indian War." Booklist, ALA

From the Publisher

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 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? --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 7
  • Paperback: 274 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (October 29, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618150765
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618150762
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

"I was born in Melrose, Massachusetts, on November 21, 1908. 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. Since I can't remember a time when I didn't intend to write, it is hard to explain why I took so long getting around to it in earnest. But the years seemed to go by very quickly. In 1936 I married Alden Speare and came to Connecticut. Not till both children were in junior high did I find time at last to sit down quietly with a pencil and paper. I turned naturally to the things which had filled my days and thoughts and began to write magazine articles about family living. Then one day I stumbled on a true story from New England history with a character who seemed to me an ideal heroine. Though I had my first historical novel almost by accident it soon proved to be an absorbing hobby." Elizabeth George Speare (1908-1994) won the 1959 Newbery Medal for THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND, and the 1962 Newbery Medal for THE BRONZE BOW. She also received a Newbery Honor Award in 1983, and in 1989 she was presented with the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for her substantial and enduring contribution to children's literature.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

99 of 102 people found the following review helpful By Magalini Sabina on January 2, 2007
Format: Paperback
Calico Captive is Elizabeth George Sprears (1908-1994) first novel. It was inspired by the diary of Susanna Willard Johnson, abducted by the Abenaki Indians in 1754 (during the French and Indian War) from her house in Fort Number 4 in Charleston, New Hampshire, published for the first time in 1796 and then 1807 (and presently available online at [...] Susanna Johnson was made captive with all her family, including a 14 year old sister, turned into the sixteen year old Miriam in the book, conducted to the Indian settlement of St. Francis and then sold to the French in Montreal, where she remained for three years before being set free after the payment of ransom. It took some years still before the whole family could be reunited.

Captivity narratives evolved into a kind of literary genre during the early years of American literature. These diaries, mostly by women, were always written at distance from the event of the abduction and share in their originality many stereotyped situations. These memories have been identified by modern critics as vehicles for a subjective rather than objective truth, as a means of political propaganda and as a form of sensational literature such as the "slave narratives". Post-modern and cultural analysis have re-evaluated them as examples of gender and culture conflicts and pointed out the principal elements of the genre: what a proper woman should do in a desperate situation and the religious message of sticking to Faith in times of adversity. Not rarely, however, the captives depict their captors as individuals and somehow opened themselves to these foreign (Indian or French) cultures.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By RuthAnn Ledgerwood on September 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is great. I read this after Witch of Blackbird Pond, and that still remains my favorite, but this one is really good. The story starts on the typical plotline of girl get's captured by Indians, she even the red hair of the girl's in other stories that are similar. It all changes around when Miriam arrives in Montreal. Forgetting that she is a captive, Miriam allows herself to be sucked into a whirlwind of parties and social activities. This can be kind of bothersome if you prefer noble heroines, but if you like ones that are realistic and with faults, Miriam will be a favorite. After all, she has been without companionship for months, and living a colonial life on the wilderness is not fun and games. When she gets kicked out onto the streets, her struggle get's worse. Not only does she have to help her sister come to grips with the loss of her children, she also has to work in a hostile situation, since she is English. Courted by the dashing, handsome, and rich Pierre de Laroche, you see her slowly forget about the truly noble guy she left back in Charleston. The one thing I thought wasn't really great, was that the character of Phineas Whitney wasn't developed enough to compete very well with Pierre de Laroche, but that was the only thing I wasn't completely happy about. I've read it 5-6 times. I'd recommend it to anyone.
By the way, if anyone knows much about Elizabeth George Speare, I would be interested in knowing more about her.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
Elizabeth George Speare's "Calico Captive" might not be as suspenseful as her "The Witch of Blackbird Pond," but it is still very good. As the excellent review from 12/1/99 pointed out, this story is very loosely based on the true captivity narrative of Susannah Johnson. The focus of the book is on Mrs. Johnson's younger sister, Miriam Willard, who was just 14 at the time she and her older sister's family were captured by Abenaki Indians in 1754, but Ms. Speare increased her age to 16.
This book has adventure and romance, and makes for a great fast-paced read. It also deals with how cultures and religions clashed on the 18th century frontier: New England farmers vs. Abenaki warriors, Puritanism vs. Roman Catholicism, and English vs. French. A wonderful historical novel for young readers, and interesting history.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Plume45 on December 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Based on the true story of Susannah Johnson who was captured with her entire family by Indians in 1754, Calico Captive is a fictionalized recreation of that ordeal. Native Americans are not the only dangers, however, as hostilities between English and French colonists in the New World increase, exploding in war. Sixteen-year-old Miriam Willard--red headed, headstrong and spunky--lives with her older, married sister and their three small children in Charlestown, N.H., until the fateful dawn raid by the Abenaki tribe. Miriam and the Johnsons find themselves prisoners several times in this novel. They are first held for ransom or adoption in a shabby Indian village. Then in mighty Montreal (a French stronghold, feared by the British settlers) Miriam becomes a kitchen slave, while her sister's family is parceled out among wealthy French colonials, and later falsely imprisoned.
Denied freedom of choice for her movements, Miriam discovers the meaning of true friendship,as her talents with a needle prove invaluable. But her heart is torn between her scholarly suitor back home and a wild, boistrous French fur trapper. What does the future hold for her, when she is suddenly granted the long-denied right to choose her own destiny? Susannah struggles to keep her family together and to maintian their English ethics in the face of French frills and native lifestyles. This is an interesting and fast-paced read, which will appeal to girls 12-18, with accurate details of both Indian and French Colonial life.
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