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Book Review: The Captive Princess – A Story Based on the Life of Young Pocahontas (Daughters of the Faith Series) by Wendy Lawton

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Who hasn’t heard of Pocahontas? She is likely the most prominent female Native American in North America. Even we Canadians to the North are familiar with the basic rudiments of her story and impact upon the settlement of the United States. Whether you were introduced to her through a full length animated feature film bearing the name her Father teasingly bestowed upon her (little mischief-maker); in school history lessons or through a historical fiction biography, you have no doubt encountered her. Have your children?

Author Wendy Lawton, also a renowned doll maker and literary agent, has crafted a brisk paced, educational and engrossing account of the girlhood of Pocahontas. The seventh in the Daughters of The Faith Series, The Captive Princess not only covers the culture of Pocahontas’ native people (the Powhatan tribe) and her major contributions to history, but also explores her conversion to Christianity. Made famous not only by her astounding bravery and courage displayed while saving John Smith’s life and her role in the provision of food for the struggling Jamestown settlement – she is also one of the first Native American converts to Christianity.

This engaging tale touches upon all of the major aspects of the Pocahontas story while blessedly steering clear of any inappropriate innuendos that some historical fiction dealing with this heroine becomes entangled in. My own first introduction to the story of Pocahontas was through a work of historical fiction, no doubt intended for adult readers, that was given to me as a gift as a preteen. Unfortunately it included conclusions based upon uncalled for speculation into the relationship between John Smith and Pocahontas and became quite graphic.

Memories of this past read haunted me from time to time as I read through this title, but thankfully, it is a very clean read, with no inappropriate or sensual suggestions at all. The Daughters of the Faith Series is aimed at Christian girls between the ages of 8 – 12, and I was blessed to find that I would feel comfortable sharing it with my young daughters without having to worry about unclean language or inferences.

During the first few chapters I made heavy use of the glossary of Powhatan words found in the back of the book until I became familiar with the most frequently used Powhatan words and expressions sprinkled infrequently throughout the text. I found the use of these words delightful, as I learned how some Powhatan words have become part of the English language, as we know it today. The development of Pocahontas’ native culture is depicted skillfully, and is naturally integrated into the story – woven throughout the day-to-day situations she finds herself in, without an emphasis on lengthy expository sequences. Lawton is an author that succeeds in drawing her readers into the story, and I read the entire book in one sitting.

Unfortunately the theme that should have held the book together and brought it to a powerful conclusion was not presented as clearly as it could have been. God's work in the life of Pocahontas was evident throughout the book in the guidance she feels are coming from “Gitchee Manitou” or the “Great Spirit”. While I understand that this term may have been used to explain God, the Creator of the universe, I do not believe that these two entities are one and the same. Gitchee Manitou is more of an animistic deity, and while the existence of this spirit may help to guide those with an existing understanding of him into a fuller understanding of God the Creator, they cannot be seen as one being, as they are presented in several instances in the book.

This confusion, along with the lack of a comprehensive explanation of the full gospel may be confusing for younger readers. I was somewhat confused by what the author was trying to accomplish by stating that Jesus Christ was the son of Gitchee Manitou myself, let alone how a younger reader would feel. If the author is aiming to promote ecumenism she is well on her way – many Christians who hold to the historical faith, that a relationship with Jesus Christ, His Father, and the Holy Spirit are the only way to eternal life, may well find themselves disappointed by such statements.

Despite my hesitations regarding the potentially confusing spiritual statements made in The Captive Princess, I look forward to reading the other titles in the Daughters of the Faith Series. I pray, that because the other girls represented do not come from animistic backgrounds this confusion as to the person of God and His Son Jesus Christ, will not be present. Lawton writes in a clear, depictive voice that will make these titles highly sought after additions to the libraries of Christian families who are eager to learn more about young heroines of the faith.

Other titles in this series of biographical historical fiction include: Almost Home: A Story Based on the Life of the Mayflower's Mary Chilton, The Tinker's Daughter: Based on the Life of Mary Bunyan, Ransom's Mark: A Story Based on the Life of the Pioneer Olive Oatman, The Hallelujah Lass: A Story Based on the Life of Salvation Army Pioneer Eliza Shirley, Courage to Run: A Story Based on the Life of Harriet Tubman, Shadow of His Hand: A Story Based on the Life of Holocaust Survivor Anita Dittman and Freedom's Pen: A Story Based on the Life of Freed Slave and Author Phillis Wheatley (releasing January 2009).

You can visit Wendy Lawton online to learn more about her dolls, stories and free bookmarks to download.

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