Friday, May 17, 2013

Book Review: Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink, 288p, Rating=4.5 stars
2006 (first published in 1935)
Children's Historical Fiction, Newbery Medal Winner (1936)
Source: Own paperback copy

Caddie Woodlawn is a real adventurer. She'd rather hunt than sew and plow than bake, and tries to beat her brother's dares every chance she gets. Caddie is friends with Indians, who scare most of the neighbors -- neighbors who, like her mother and sisters, don't understand her at all. 

Caddie is brave, and her story is special because it's based on the life and memories of Carol Ryrie Brink's grandmother, the real Caddie Woodlawn. Her spirit and sense of fun have made this book a classic that readers have taken to their hearts for more than seventy years. (Goodreads)

I read this with my children and they moaned when I first brought it out. A few chapters in, though, they changed their minds. Caddie is quite a character. In 1864, Caddie is 11 and runs around with her brothers, Tom, 13, and Warren, 9. The family lives in Wisconsin and when they arrived, she and her sister Mary, were quite frail. Mary died so her father asked her mother to let him try an experiment. He wanted Caddie to run wild with the boys rather than learn to be a lady indoors. So she's raised as a tomboy and she and her brothers get into quite a bit of mischief.

There are fun stories about their adventures with the Indians, the Circuit Rider (traveling minister), Uncle Edmund's visit, school and just life in general living in the wilderness.

We especially enjoyed the chapter where her brother, Tom, made up a story. Caddie, Warren and Tom were plowing the field so to make it more interesting, one of them would plow while the other two sat by the fence and made up stories. Tom was the best storyteller so both Warren and Caddie wanted to hear his story. The main character in his story had many character flaws and we had a good discussion on him.

Since it was first published in 1935 (and written about like in the 1860's), the times were quite different than today. We had some good discussions on what was better about that time and the conveniences we have today that make life easier. It was also good to see the similarities and see that human nature is the same over time. There's a part where Caddie wants to run away and my daughter has wanted to do that a few times so it was good for her to see that even children that lived a long time ago had some of those same feelings and we were able to see how Caddie worked through her feelings. The family has a big decision to make towards the end. We each guessed what they would decide and were surprised somewhat by the outcome.

There's also a companion book, Caddie Woodlawn's Family, which is 14 stories about Caddie and her family. Apparently some of the stories overlap, which is fine since it was a fun book to read. I highly recommend Caddie Woodlawn to anyone interested in learning about life in the 1860's.


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