Caddie Woodlawn Series

Caddie Woodlawn

Book cover: 'Caddie Woodlawn'
Author(s): 
Carol Ryrie Brink
Series: 
Caddie Woodlawn
Subject(s): 
Setting: 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Caddie Woodlawn is the story of a young tom-boyish girl who grew up in pioneer Wisconsin during the Civil War (this story predates the first book of the Little House series by about 25 years - but they are quite close geographically). Caddie's father was the grandson of an English Lord, but as his mother was from the lower classes, his father was disowned and the family grew up impoverished. He emigrated to America where he married a charming Boston lady with whom he raised a family of eight children. They moved to Wisconsin when Caddie (short for Caroline) was very young. Soon after their move (still before the story begins) they lost their five year old girl due to her sickly "constitution". Because of this, Caddie's parents decide to let her grow up in the out-of-doors where she spends a great deal of time adventuring in their nearby woods with her brothers. (This was quite uncommon for girls in those days.) There they meet real-life Indians and develop a curious friendship with them. They also hear somewhat wild Irish folktales from their golden-hearted Irish farmhand (you may want to read these tales yourself before presenting them to little ones), and are involved in a real-life "Incredible Journey" when their dog, Nero, amazingly returns to them after being lost several states away. Caddie's mother still does have an influence on her daughter and over the course of the story (in which Caddie is 11 years old) Caddie begins to develop a sense of what it means to be a lady, despite her rough ways. Like the Little House books, this story is neither Catholic nor particularly religious, but full of good old-fashioned family values and a proper devotion to parents - you particularly see the children's strong admiration for their father, who is simple, honest, hardworking, understanding, and plays a very active role in his children's daily lives.

The story is written by Caddie's granddaughter who, orphaned at a young age, was actually raised by Caddie and grew up listening to these stories from her grandmother's childhood. This grandmotherly wisdom shows through in the book in the way the stories were selected and told.

Our family recently enjoyed visiting Caddie Woodlawn Historic Park, near the Minnesota border in Western Wisconsin. It's a very simple place where you can walk through Caddie's house (no tourist guides or anything - you just walk through the empty house on your own) and visit a memorial to Caddie's sister Mary who is buried in an unknown place on the property. Reading this book (and visiting Caddie's house) were good opportunities for me as a mother to reflect on some of John Senior's ideas from the Restoration of Christian Culture on the benefits of a simpler life.

On a related note: I found the movie (of the same name) done by Wonderworks terribly disappointing. Most notably, they took one of my (and apparently the author's) favorite characters - the noble and loving Robert Ireton, and turned him into a mean and cowardly character.

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

Magical Melons

Book cover: 'Magical Melons'
Author(s): 
Carol Ryrie Brink
Copyright: 
1939
Publisher: 
Aladdin Paperbacks
Series: 
Caddie Woodlawn
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
193 pages
Subject(s): 
Setting: 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This is a delightful collection of additional stories about Caddie Woodlawn and her family (and one additional story as explained in the introduction that doesn't quite belong). These stories take place between 1863 and 1866 and so in some places overlap the original stories in Caddie Woodlawn which took place in 1864. Here each chapter stands alone as an interesting and true story and many are very touching and beautiful. The first, from which comes the title Magical Melons, is the story of how the three oldest children discovered a large number of perfect watermelons in the hayloft in the barn. Childishly believing them to have magically appeared there, they quietly devoured a large number of them over the course of several weeks. It turns out that the farm hand Robert Ireton had hidden them there to provide a surprise for the family later in the fall when they would be unexpected. When he went to pull them out there were only a few left and Tom, Caddie and Warren had to sit by while the rest of the family enjoyed what was left of the treat.

This book would make a delightful read aloud for the whole family and should be required reading, along with Caddie Woodlawn, for those studying Wisconsin history

Review Date: 
9-14-2000
Reviewed by: