Friday Reads #4: Indian Captive

Welcome back to another installment of my Friday Reads series, setting you up for a great weekend of reading. If you haven’t already, take a look at last week’s installment on The Creation of Anne Boleyn.

As a child, my mom preferred to buy me award winning books. I suppose it was so she could be certain I was reading decent, and appropriate, material. Newbery Honor book, Indian Captive, by Lois Lenski was one of them.

Paperback cover of Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

If I had to guess, I’d say I read it somewhere around 15-20 times. Surprisingly, the simple paperback survived all those reads and was still in fairly decent shape when it got left behind upon my move to Virginia. I wish I’d brought it with me, as it got lost when my parents moved to a new house.

For a while after that, I contemplated buying a new physical version (and I still might if I can find a one of the earlier hardback editions), but I never got around to it. Luckily, to my everlasting joy, it was released as an ebook.

eBook cover of Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

I quite happily purchased it from Barnes and Noble and have read it another 4 or 5 times since. So what keeps drawing me to a children’s book?

First and foremost, it is, quite simply, a fabulously written story. Molly is a very strong female character, but with a vulnerability that makes her believable and relatable. She has moments of intense strength, and moments where she breaks down almost completely.

As a child with major health issues, my life often followed that pattern. I’d be great one day, then back in the hospital for who knows how long the next. But if Molly, who was suffering so much greater things than I was, could keep going, then so could I. She survived, and thrived, and I would too.

Perhaps it’s silly that I found such inspiration in a story so completely different than my own, but I didn’t really think of that. I focused on the fact that Indian Captive was based on a true story. Someone had really gone through what I was reading, and had come out a stronger person because of it.

Illustration from Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

In addition to the fabulous writing, the illustrations are just beautiful. There is a softness to the style that I loved then, and still love now. I still take the time to look at each image as I come to it. I just wish the pictures were bigger in ebooks.

Illustration from Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

One thing that I’ve come to appreciate as an adult is that Lois Lenski made the Seneca characters likable and relatable as well. It would have been so easy for her to portray them all as monsters, but Molly’s friends and adoptive family were kind, understanding, and complex. You can’t help but like Little Turtle/Turkey Feather, Grandfather Shagbark, Shining Star, Earth Woman, Beaver Girl, and Molly/Corn Tassel’s other friends. There are, of course, less likeable characters, but, that’s true of life in general.

The way Lois Lenski wrote made me want to learn new languages, experience other cultures, and make new friends. I understood that it was horrible how Molly ended up as Corn Tassel, but once she was adopted into her Seneca family, her experiences, her life lessons, were beautiful. She learned so much, she understood that the average Seneca person was not very different from the average white settler, and that was a very important lesson that has stuck with me over the years.

Have you ever read Indian Captive or a book like it? Is there a book that taught you a lesson that has stuck with you through the years? Do you still read children’s books? Leave a comment and let me know. Come back for next week’s installment of Friday Reads for another book that has had a strong impact on me.

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