Title: Caddie Woodlawn
Author: Carol Ryrie Brink
Major Themes: Wisconsin, Pioneers
Synopsis: Caddie and her brothers enjoyed many adventures around their farm and in the local community, and learned many lessons along the way in their pioneer settlement in Wisconsin.
When someone chose Caddie Woodlawn for a read-aloud recently, we were startled to realize that neither of us had ever written a review of this wonderful book for our website! Obviously, it’s been a number of years since the last time we read through it. It was high time to read it again for the benefit of the younger ones (and some of the older ones who had forgotten it!). This book has been a favorite in our family.
Caddie and her family lived in Wisconsin (incidentally, very near where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived in Little House in the Big Woods). This book describes the Woodlawn family’s life during the last year of the Civil War. Caddie, at 11, spent her time running around with her two brothers, to the despair of her mother who wanted her daughters to become ladies. The three of them waded across the river to visit the Indians and harvested nuts in the woods, went hunting with their uncle who loved to play pranks on them, and plowed the fields together. The settlers in the area banded together for protection against an Indian massacre, and Caddie had to find a way to protect her friends in the Indian village from frightened white people. Many other stories are told of Caddie and her family in this true story of the author’s grandmother.
One thing that really stood out to some of us as we read through Caddie Woodlawn this time was her father’s discussion with her about womanhood. He clearly explained to her how important women are, and the role they play in making the world a better place—by being feminine. Up until that time, Caddie scorned womanly things, but this talk from her father, coming on the heels of a very memorable event, changed her life.
Some other important themes enter into this fascinating account of pioneer life, as well. Caddie saw the effects of racism on others’ lives. She also saw the effects of the English class structure, and helped her family make a choice between two vastly different lifestyles. These are stories that will stick with you for a long time. The book is not all serious, though. Some of the stories are very funny—and if you read the story about the school recitations you’ll never forget a famous saying (or a variation of it).
WARNING: Golly in chapters 1, 2, 4 (twice), 7, 11, 12. 15, 16, 18, 19 (twice), 20 (twice), 22 (twice). A fight in chapter 6.
Listening Level—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, 10 – 12, Family Friendly
Reading Independently—Age 7 – 9, 8 – 12