Saturday, October 29, 2011

Book Review of Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

Name of Book: Caddie Woodlawn

Author: Carol Ryrie Brink

ISBN: 0-02-041880-9

Publisher: Collier Books

Type of book: Wisconsin, 1864-1865, tomboy, family, women vs men

Year it was published: 1935


 "In 1864 Caddie Woodlawn was eleven, and as wild a little tomboy as ever ran the woods of western Wisconsin. She was the despair of her mohter and of her elder sister Clara. But her father watched her with a little shine of pride in his eyes, and her brothers accepted her as one of themselves without a question."

So begins an exciting story about a girl who would rather hunt than sew, rather plow than bake. THis prize-winning book tells of the escapades of Caddie and her six brothers and sisters, of a schoolhouse fire, of pranks played on a city-slicker cousin, of an amazing discovery in an old trunk. And when the Indians threaten to massacre the settlers, it is Caddie's courage and quick thinking that save her family and their neighbors. Caddie's adventures on the frontier a century ago seem real to readers today, and most of them really happened. The author, the granddaughter of the real Caddie Woodlawn, based the book on true stories of pioneer days she heard her grandmother tell.


Caddie is drawn as a third dimensional character that changes over time. Her brothers, Tom and Warren also possess interesting qualities and characteristics, that is they are not used as simply props. Tom has more description and admiration from Caddie than Warren does. Father and Mother seem to be two dimensional characters and they do not go through personality changes. The sister, Hetty, also slightly changes. The other siblings, Clara, Minnie and Joe are not described well and aren't given any spotlight.


Although there are numerous resolutions to the problems, I think the main struggle that was faced with Caddie and others in a family is a struggle of growing up, of Caddie to trying to transition into becoming more ladylike than she used to be.


This is written in third person narrative from Caddie's point of view about the life. Sometimes the chapters didn't seem to be finished, but the author does try to keep the readers informed about where they are and what is going on. I do wish that she could have expanded a little more on how civil war affected Wisconsin.

Author Information:

December 28, 1895 in Moscow, Idaho, The United States

August 15, 1981

Children's Books, Literature & Fiction

About this author

Born Caroline Ryrie, American author of over 30 juvenile and adult books. Her novel Caddie Woodlawn won the 1936 Newbery Medal.

Brink was orphaned by age 8 and raised by her maternal grandmother, the model for Caddie Woodlawn. She started writing for her school newspapers and continued that in college. She attended the University of Idaho for three years before transferring to the University of California in 1917, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1918, the same year she married.

Anything Can Happen on the River, Brink's first novel, was published in 1934. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Idaho in 1965. Brink Hall, which houses the UI English Department and faculty offices, is named in her honor. The children's section of the Moscow, ID Carnegie public library is also named after her. (from


Overall it's an enjoyable novel and it's an interesting contrast to Little House books. I would guess that Laura in Little House books wanted to be as tomboyish as Caddie, but she never was. Caddie was always encouraged to be tomboyish, she also was very close to her father who encouraged her to be wild, and at the same time never seemed to push her to be a lady. When the time was right, Caddie transitioned on her own on being a lady, learning some crafts and skills she never liked before. The relationship she had with her brothers was also interesting, because Tom and Warren always made her feel as if she belonged with them, even going so far as to transition with Caddie. I can imagine that the table and whatnot when it was filled with children tended to be fun and boisterous. The parents also weren't extremely strict and children always had a voice in decision making, while Laura from Little House books seemed to be complete opposite. There are parts that I did dislike though. I wasn't comfortable with the fact that the Native American character in the book spoke very Peter Pan, as in referring to himself in third person, and also I did not like words such as half-breed that was used in the book. Still though, I think the Native American characters are drawn in a more positive manner, that is when Caddie visits them, she sees everyday ordinary life and not savagery she expects.

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

1 comment:

  1. I was about the same age as the character, 11, when I read this book. I stayed up all night to finish it, because I found it so exciting. Of course, it was no small book for my age. Here I am 53 years later, and it popped into my head. I think I will have to re-read it!


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