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.
Caddie Woodlawn (Amazon US) (Amazon UK) (Audible) (AbeBooks) was right up there with Laura Ingalls Wilder books when I was growing up. After all, the book told the story of a girl growing up in pioneer days in Wisconsin, my home state. After I’d exhausted the Little House books and watched the 1970’s TV show religiously, my school librarian, Miss Francour, recommended Caddie Woodlawn and pointed out that it was an award-winner, too.
Caddie Woodlawn is a book about a loving family growing up in rural Wisconsin at about the same time as the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Three of the siblings in the family, including Caddie, do everything together and I love that tight-knit bond that’s forged. Much like Ingalls Wilder’s books, Caddie is based upon the author’s real-life family stories of growing up a “pioneer”.
Caddie does not want to learn to be a proper lady and would rather be climbing trees than learning comportment. Wild and brave and adventurous, her father treats her the same as he treats his sons. The closeness of the family is great to read about, with wise and noble parents, and even though the kids are free spirits, ultimately minding their parents when it matters most.
Now, for a book written in the 1930’s, just like Laura Ingalls Wilder or the early Nancy Drew texts, there are some issues. There’s a lot of talk about the Indian uprising in 1962 in Minnesota and fear that the Native Americans would come to their little town and massacre everyone. (Read up on this “massacre” and you’ll find it was another case of the U.S. Government screwing over the natives and how the natives fought back against oppression) However, Caddie’s parents don’t think so, and are rather forward-thinking for the time. They are friendly with the Indians and when Caddie comes into some money, she buys presents for some children who have an Indian mother and a deadbeat white dad. Still, there’s a lot of fear-mongering by some other people in the book.
If you’re looking for an interesting book during settlers’ times and want to open a dialogue with your children about the treatment of Native Americans throughout history, Caddie Woodlawn is a strong contender.
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