Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

Young Miriam Willard is taken captive by the Abenaki Indians during the French and Indian War, and must learn to survive and adapt to her new life.


"Calico Captive" is a historical fiction novel written by Elizabeth George Speare. Set in the late 1700s during the French and Indian War, the book tells the captivating story of Miriam Willard, a young woman who is taken captive by the Native Americans. Through her journey, Miriam experiences the harsh realities of war, cultural differences, and the resilience of the human spirit. With vivid descriptions and compelling characters, Speare brings to life a turbulent period in American history.

Brief Synopsis

The story is set in the year 1754 in the town of Charlestown, New Hampshire. Miriam Willard, a young and spirited woman, lives with her family in the midst of the French and Indian War. As tensions rise between the British settlers and the Native Americans, Miriam finds herself caught in the middle of the conflict.

One day, while Miriam and her family are traveling to visit relatives, they are ambushed by a group of Abenaki Native Americans. Miriam and her sister, Susanna, along with several other captives, are taken prisoner and forced to march to the Native American village of St. Francis.

In St. Francis, Miriam faces a harsh and unfamiliar way of life. She is separated from her sister and must adapt to the customs and traditions of the Native Americans. Despite the challenging circumstances, Miriam forms unexpected friendships and finds moments of joy amidst the hardship.

As the war rages on, Miriam's fate becomes uncertain. Will she be able to escape captivity and return to her family? Will she ever be reunited with her sister? These questions drive the plot forward, keeping readers engaged and eager to discover the outcome.

Main Events

1Miriam and her family are ambushed by Native Americans.
4Miriam and Susanna are separated and taken to St. Francis.
6Miriam befriends a French girl named Eunice.
10Miriam is forced to work in the Abenaki village.
14Miriam witnesses the death of a Native American chief.
20Miriam and Eunice attempt to escape but are captured.
23British troops arrive, and Miriam is rescued.
25Miriam is reunited with her family.

Main Characters

  1. Miriam Willard: The protagonist of the story, Miriam is a strong-willed and resilient young woman who is taken captive by Native Americans. Throughout her journey, she demonstrates courage and adaptability.
  2. Susanna Willard: Miriam's younger sister, Susanna is also captured and taken to St. Francis. She serves as a source of comfort and support for Miriam throughout their captivity.
  3. Eunice: A French girl who befriends Miriam in St. Francis, Eunice provides a glimpse into the lives of the French settlers and serves as a companion for Miriam.
  4. Mrs. Willard: Miriam and Susanna's mother, Mrs. Willard is a loving and protective figure who plays a pivotal role in the story.
  5. Jeremiah Willard: Miriam and Susanna's father, Jeremiah is a strong and determined man who sets out to rescue his daughters from captivity.

Themes and Insights

  1. Cultural Differences: "Calico Captive" explores the clash of cultures between the British settlers and the Native Americans. Through Miriam's experiences, the novel highlights the importance of understanding and respecting different customs and traditions.
  2. Resilience and Survival: Miriam's journey showcases the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Despite the challenges she faces, Miriam manages to find strength within herself and adapt to her circumstances.
  3. Family Bonds: The novel emphasizes the importance of family and the lengths to which parents will go to protect their children. Miriam's parents never give up on finding and rescuing their daughters, showcasing the deep love and commitment within the family unit.
  4. War and Conflict: "Calico Captive" delves into the harsh realities of war and the impact it has on individuals and communities. The book sheds light on the consequences of colonial expansion and the violence that often accompanies it.

Reader's Takeaway

"Calico Captive" is a compelling historical novel that transports readers to a tumultuous period in American history. Through vivid descriptions and well-developed characters, Elizabeth George Speare explores themes of cultural understanding, resilience, and the power of family bonds. The story is a reminder of the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity and the importance of empathy and compassion. Readers will find themselves captivated by Miriam's journey and inspired by her determination to survive and reunite with her family.


"Calico Captive" is a captivating novel that offers a unique perspective on the French and Indian War. Elizabeth George Speare's vivid storytelling and well-researched historical backdrop make for an engaging read. With its memorable characters and thought-provoking themes, the book leaves a lasting impression on readers, reminding us of the resilience of the human spirit and the power of understanding and empathy in times of conflict.

Calico Captive FAQ

  1. What is 'Calico Captive' about?

    'Calico Captive' is a historical fiction novel set during the French and Indian War. It tells the story of Miriam Willard, a young girl who is taken captive by Native Americans after a raid on her New Hampshire settlement.

  2. Who is the author of 'Calico Captive'?

    The author of 'Calico Captive' is Elizabeth George Speare. She was an American author known for her historical fiction novels for young adults.

  3. Is 'Calico Captive' based on a true story?

    Yes, 'Calico Captive' is based on the real-life captivity narrative of Susanna Johnson, who was captured by the Abenaki tribe during the French and Indian War. Elizabeth George Speare used this historical event as inspiration for her novel.

  4. What age group is 'Calico Captive' suitable for?

    'Calico Captive' is generally recommended for readers aged 12 and up. However, it can also be enjoyed by older readers who appreciate historical fiction.

  5. Is 'Calico Captive' part of a series?

    No, 'Calico Captive' is a standalone novel and is not part of a series.

  6. What themes are explored in 'Calico Captive'?

    Some of the themes explored in 'Calico Captive' include survival, resilience, cultural differences, and the impact of war on individuals and communities.

  7. Are there any content warnings for 'Calico Captive'?

    The book contains some scenes of violence and captivity, which may be distressing for sensitive readers. It is always recommended to check individual sensitivity and age appropriateness before reading.

  8. What is the setting of 'Calico Captive'?

    'Calico Captive' is primarily set in the wilderness of New Hampshire and among the Native American tribes of the northeastern United States during the French and Indian War.

  9. Is 'Calico Captive' historically accurate?

    While 'Calico Captive' is a work of fiction, it is based on historical events and strives for historical accuracy. Elizabeth George Speare conducted thorough research to ensure the authenticity of the setting and the portrayal of the time period.

  10. Is 'Calico Captive' a romance novel?

    While there are elements of romance in 'Calico Captive', it is primarily a historical adventure novel focused on the protagonist's journey and experiences during her captivity.