Review: Indian Captive by Lois Lenski


Title: Indian Captive

Author: Lois Lenski

Publisher:  Open Road



May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Mary Jemison has been captured by a Shawnee war party! How will she survive?

When twelve-year-old Mary Jemison and her family are captured by Shawnee raiders, she’s sure they’ll all be killed. Instead, Mary is separated from her siblings and traded to two Seneca sisters, who adopt her and make her one of their own. Mary misses her home, but the tribe is kind to her. She learns to plant crops, make clay pots, and sew moccasins, just as the other members do. Slowly, Mary realizes that the Indians are not the monsters she believed them to be. When Mary is given the chance to return to her world, will she want to leave the tribe that has become her family?

This Newbery Honor book is based on the true story of Mary Jemison, the pioneer known as the White Woman of the Genesee.

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Lois Lenski including rare images and never-before-seen documents from the author’s estate.


I have always been fascinated by other cultures.  Native American peoples have interested since I was a young girl, and learning about their daily lives sent me to library time and time again when I was in school.  Indian Captive made me think differently about what it would have been like to be part of their culture.  A young white girl, Mary  Jemison, nicknamed Molly, and her family were kidnapped by a Seneca raiding party when she was just twelve years old.  Separated from her parents and siblings, she is adopted by the tribe and forced to live with them.  She longs to be with her parents again, and keeps hoping to either escape or be rescued so she can be reunited with her family.  Her new Seneca family is not willing to let her go, much to Molly’s dismay.

This is a fast, compelling read that was written in 1941.  This Newberry Honor book is hard to put down, and I found Molly a likeable character.  I sympathized with her plight and was moved by her conflicted emotions.  Adopted by the Seneca to replace a clan member who had been killed by the white interlopers, Molly wants nothing more than to go back home.  She never stops searching for a way to find her way back to her father’s farm, even as she becomes accustomed to her new home.  It is Molly’s confusion that touched a chord with me.  What would it be like to be ripped away from everything you knew and loved, and thrust into a new family.  She couldn’t understand her captors’ language, she was at a loss knowing how to act, and she grieved fiercely for her family.  Molly endured so many hardships, and at such a young age, that my heart broke for her.

While the narrative at times felt a tad aged, the story of Molly’s captivity is timeless.  Lois Lenski’s fictional account of Molly’s life is engrossing and compulsively readable.   Lenski’s illustrations give life to the prose, illuminating Molly’s every day activities.  Life in 1700 America was hard work, regardless of race or culture.  There was always something that needed to be done to ensure the survival of the family or the tribe, from planting and harvesting corn to hunting, curing, and storing meat for the harsh winters.  I wouldn’t have made it through the frigid weather; living in a bark lodge with only a fur blanket and hardly any food would have quickly done me in.  No space heaters, Under Armour, or instant noodles would have pretty much sealed the deal for me – I would have expired within a week of the onset of winter.  Molly, on the other hand, lived to the ripe old age of 90, despite her hardships.

As the story unfolds, and as Molly begins to feel at home with the Seneca, she has a terrible decision to make.  Does she stay with her captors, or should she go back to live with the white people.  As her time with the Indians goes by, they gradually become more than her jailors.  Slowly, and convincingly, Molly begins to care for and love her new family.  Because the Seneca are portrayed with depth and sympathy, it’s easy to buy into Molly’s conflicted heart.  She’s not so sure where she belongs anymore, and that’s what made this read truly heart wrenching.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher


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