Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison by Lois Lenski

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 272 pages
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Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison by Lois Lenski is based on the true story of Mary Jemison who was captured as a young 12- or 15-year-old girl in Pennsylvania during the French and Indian War and traveled a great distance from the Ohio River Valley to upper New York to live with the Seneca Indian tribe.  The beginning of the novel outlines the facts that are included in the novel, particularly that the entire Jemison family was captured by Indians in 1758 and that only the two eldest brothers escaped capture and Mary was traded to live with the Seneca Indians.

“Then she saw that with the Indians there were white men, dressed in blue cloth with lace ruffles at their sleeves, speaking French in hurried tones.  She counted.  There were six Indians and four Frenchmen.  Were the Frenchmen wicked, too, like the Indians?” (page 19)

While there is foreshadowing about what happens to Mary — known as Molly to family and friends — the technique is not heavy-handed, though there are moments of repetition that she is the only white girl in the Indian village.  Lenski balances the negativity of life with the white man and Indians, careful not to take sides.  The battles between the French and English across the American wilderness sweep up not only the Native Americans, but also the pioneer and frontier families seeking to build lives for themselves.  Molly learns to fit in with her new family, but always she longs for her true family.  She spends many of her early days crying alone in the woods when she’s sent to fetch water, and its easy to see how devastating this new life could be for a child.

“She was living in two places at once, her body with the Indians, but her spirit where she wanted to be — at home with the white people.” (page 160-1)

The Native Americans expect her to work and adapt to their way of life, and some are more harsh toward her failings and her desire to return to the pale-faces at Fort Duquesne or return to the Englishman that arrive seeking the Iroquois help in their battles with the French.  Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison by Lois Lenski is a good introduction for those ages eight to 12 to the French and Indian war and to the Native American way of life at a transitional period in history.

About the Author:

Lois Lenski was a popular and prolific writer of children’s and young adult fiction. One of her projects was a collection of regional novels about children across the United States.


10th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.





8th book (French and Indian War) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.




14th book for 2014 New Author Challenge.


  1. Lois Lenski was a favorite author of mine when I was young.

  2. Sounds like an interesting book. If I decide to read more about the French and Indian War for the challenge, aside from the readalong book, I’ll keep it in mind.

  3. Sounds wonderful — will have to add this to my TBR. Love that era.

  4. Oops! Change that last statement. I just bought it. It is now part of my TBR pile.

  5. I have not heard of this book, but it is definitely my kind of book. I need to put Indian Captive on my Amazon books wish list. Great review.