September 07, 2015

YA Graphic Novel Reveal: True Adventure Story of Indian Capture

 Today I'm sharing an intriguing new book, Captive of Friendly Cove: Based on the Secret Journals of John Jewitt by Rebecca Goldfield - actually a graphic novel based on a real life story.

 The original account was first published in 1807 and detailed Jewitt's three years as a slave following a shipwreck The author read a book about John Jewitt and thought it would make a great graphic novel. "I thought John’s story was a perfect example of an overlooked story readers would love," the author said.

Jewitt, a British sailor and blacksmith, was captured and held for three years by the Mowachaht tribe on the west coast of Vancouver Island before freeing himself and a fellow shipmate., the author thought it would make a great graphic novel. "

Interestingly enough, present day readers will find a modern but familiar theme - the consequences of an argument centering around a gun. In this case, the ship's captain presents a gun to the tribal chief in an exchange of gifts. But on a later return visit, the chief claims the gun was broken, and the angered captain strikes out. Jewitt is among those later captured when the chief and tribe members return to the ship for revenge.

There are some bloody parts when other ship members are killed, but Jewitt is taken as a hostage because of his armory skills. 

Graphic novels are a great way to draw the younger reader into history in a fun, but sneaky way! Note: there is some violence depicted which may disturb sensitive or much younger readers.

Get the book at:  Indie Bound  Barnes and NobleBooks-A-Million

Q & A with author Rebecca Goldfield:

  Your graphic novel is based on a true story?

Yes! I had a chance encounter with another book, White Slaves of

Maquinna, while on a trip to British Columbia. The book was about John Jewitt—a real person who was captured by the Mowachaht tribe and eventually won his freedom. I read the book in one day and immediately thought it would be a great story for a graphic novel. Fulcrum, my publisher, is known for publishing nonfiction, historical comics that focus on unsung heroes and overlooked stories. I thought John’s story was a perfect example of an overlooked story that readers would love.

What inspired you to tell John Jewitt’s story in a graphic novel?

In reading both the journal and the narrative, there was tremendous time spent describing John’s world; what a house looked like; and how the people fished, made a canoe, or built a house. I thought we could convey much of that descriptive material through the art, which freed me up to focus on the action, drama, characters, and actual story as I envisioned it. I was also interested in trying to write a young adult graphic novel, and had been keeping an eye out for a sympathetic young protagonist who faced tremendous odds and had to overcome them in order to survive.  John Jewitt was the perfect candidate for just such a story.

Speaking of dark things, Captive of Friendly Cove does depict violence in
a variety of contexts. How did you choose to illustrate these scenes and what
do you hope young readers will take away?

I was concerned about the violence, and much of the gory stuff happens right away in chapter one. As we worked on those scenes I’d continually show them to kids and parents, both of whom were very accepting, and even eager to see the rest of the story.  
The arc of violence, however, ends on a healing note. John Jewitt ultimately helps to prevent further bloodshed between native people and outsiders, and his story highlights the value of human life. We do a disservice to children when we rewrite history to make it more palatable. Violence happens and it exists within a context that should be explored. Captive shows the motivations of both the English traders and the Mowachaht people, and I hope sheds light on a divisive period. We cannot rewrite history, but we can learn from it. 

John Jewitt was an educated British armorer and blacksmith, which is one of the reasons he was kept alive. What kind of weaponry research was done for the book and did you discover anything surprising? 

We looked at original art from artists aboard the ships of the early explorers and traders, went to museums to look at Native art, and visited Yuquot, the site of the actual story. We relied on Jewitt’s descriptions and those of scholars and anthropologists. With regard to weapons, early on in the book, a quarrel over a gun called a fowling piece incites a terrible conflict. And I had to ask myself, what the heck is a “fowling piece”? We debated if we could call it a rifle, but a rifle has a twisted bore and a single projectile, while a fowling piece has smooth bore and multiple projectiles. That bit of research, by the way, came directly from my husband, who is skilled with firearms. So you never know where you will find an expert! Ultimately, we considered what would be the best for the reader. The team used a healthy amount of imagination and creative license. It was one of my favorite parts of the making of this book.  

You mention in your author introduction that you met descendants of the Mowachaht tribe. How did that visit inspire the Native dress, food, and rituals that are depicted throughout the book? 

One thing that struck me was the extraordinary generosity of the people in allowing us even a glimpse of their way of life today, their obvious pride in their culture, and their openness about some of their present-day struggles. I had the great pleasure of meeting the Chief Mike Maquinna, a descendent of the Maquinna featured in the book. But the thing I really remember learning was how little the John Jewitt story meant to them. We’ve told a story that was central in John’s life, but these people had been there for thousands of years, and John was barely a blip in their history.