Tuesday, March 27, 2012

MG Book Review - Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

Do you have any extremely vivid memories of reading from when you were a child? Like the first time you read one of your favorite books? Well, I have a few. One of which I'll share with you. My family and I were camping (staying in a cabin not a tent though) in Maine. I remember that the room we were staying in had bunk beds. I'd brought a couple of books along for the stay. I remember being completely engrossed in this amazing story about a girl named Mary who was abducted by Native Americans and came to live with and love them. I never forgot the story, but I never could remember the name of the story. Until now.

I was on Netgalley, and I saw that a bunch of books by Lois Lenski were being re-released. I remember that I loved Strawberry girl so I requested it. Then I saw another book called Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison. And it all came rushing back to me. THIS IS THE BOOK!

It begins with Mary, or Molly as her family calls her, on her family farmstead. The Indians come one day and take all of them hostage. Along the way, Molly and another boy are separated and brought to Fort Duquesne. She's kept there for a few days until two Indian women come and take her away. Molly later learns that she was taken to replace an Indian who was killed by a white man. At first Molly resists the Indians and their way of life. Eventually, with the help of an old man and a young boy, she learns the Indian language and comes to understand their way of life. Throughout the book, Mary struggles to reconcile her white history with her Native American lifestyle.

I loved re-reading this book. It was totally a trip down memory lane. Lois writing is very simple and easy to understand, even though this story is in no way simple. Molly is taken away from everything she knows and loves, but learns to make the best of her situation. She grows from a young girl into a woman. Lois writing isn't biased on one side or the other - white man or Native American man. She just tells the story. A lot is known about Mary because when she was an old woman, she told her story and the biographies still exist today. Lois obviously did a ton of research because there are a ton of historical facts in this book. It doesn't at all read like a history book. The whole story brings the past back to life.The illustrations are simple, as you can see from the cover, but beautiful.

I would recommend this book to all middle graders. When I finally get my own English class, I would love to have them read this. For younger kids, I think it would depend on their maturity level. While there is no violence really shown in the books, it is presumed that the Indians killed Mary's entire family, including a baby. So I'd use discretion with younger kids. The wording is a little old-fashioned, but that is to be expected. Because of that, I would probably not use this as a read-aloud. That being said, I loved this book, and it is a welcome addition to my family library.
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