HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Caddie Woodlawn
Author: Carol Ryrie Brink
Cover illustrator: Sean Beavers
Publisher: Aladdin, republished in 2006
Related website: www.SimonSaysKids.com (publisher)
Language level: 2 (a common euphemism)
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Brink, Carol Ryrie. Caddie Woodlawn (published in 1935 by MacMillan Publishing Company; republished in 2002 by Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY 10020). As this book opens in 1864, Caddie Woodlawn is eleven and a tomboy living with her parents, brothers Tom, Warren, and baby Joe, and sisters Clara, Hetty, and Minnie in the woods of western Wisconsin. She would rather hunt, plow, and play with her brothers in the forest than sew, bake, or learn to keep house. Caddie and her family have adventures involving the circuit riding preacher, pigeons, a battle in the schoolroom, Indians, a “massacree” scare, a scalp belt, and poor cousin Annabelle. Historically, they experience the end of the Civil War and the assassination of President Lincoln. Caddie’s father, who had emigrated from England, even gets a letter telling him that he has inherited the family estate back in England. Will the Woodlawns go or stay in Wisconsin?
Based on the true stories which the author’s grandmother told her when Brink was little about her own childhood on the Wisconsin frontier, Caddie Woodlawn is great historical fiction which will help young people understand what life was like for children growing up in the wilderness during the middle 1860s. In fact, Caddie was still alive, at age 82, when the book was published in 1935. It won the Newbery Medal the following year. Brink says that she added a few incidents for the purposes of plot but kept the real background and the characters of the real story in mind. I guess the theme of the book can be summed up by Caddie’s thoughts at the end. “Folks keep growing from one person into another all their lives, and life is just a lot of everyday adventures.” The euphemism “golly” appears rather frequently. Most people will have no problem with that, but some parents might want to know. Otherwise, this is a thoroughly enjoyable chronicle about the simple joys of family and community in an earlier time. There is a sequel, originally named Magical Melons but now sold under the title Caddie Woodlawn’s Family.