Carol Ryrie Brink – Caddie Woodlawn
Length: 276 pages
Genre: Children’s Historical Fiction
Started / Finished: 12 July 2010
Where did it come from? The Friends of the Library booksale.
Why do I have it? I’d seen it mentioned as a children’s classic, so I thought I should probably read it.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 09 September 2006. (Another long-term resident of the pile! I’m knocking them off, one by one.)
I went to camp in
Wisconsin, but never seemed
to have this much fun.
Summary: It’s 1864, and the Civil War is little more than distant gossip for Caddie Woodlawn and her six siblings growing up in rural Wisconsin. At eleven, Caddie should be learning to be a proper little lady, but instead she’s still running wild with her brothers. As they have adventures, get into trouble, and tumble home to their large and loving family, Caddie must learn that growing up means more than learning embroidery and not getting her dresses dirty.
Review: I know full well that if someone had handed me Caddie Woodlawn when I was eight or nine, I would have absolutely loved it. It’s essentially a mixture of two of my other favorites from that time in my life: it’s got the setting and family life of Little House in the Big Woods, the spark and humor of The Great Brain, plus an irrepressible tomboy heroine. However, reading it for the first time as an adult was kind of a non-event. While it was a pioneer story in the sense that they were living far away from any major urban center, there was no sense of having to eke their survival out of the wilderness; looking at pictures of the actual house that Carol Ryrie Brink’s grandmother lived in as a child makes it clear that it’s not some little drafty log cabin. There was similarly never much urgency to the plot, either; I think the worst hardship the family had to suffer was getting tired of eating their overabundance of turkey. Still, it’s a charming little book, full of fun adventures and with some nice morals about freedom, what it means to be an American, and what it really means to grow up to be a woman. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: It’s deservedly a children’s classic, particularly for girls, but make sure they read it before they’re too old and jaded to properly enjoy it.
First Line: In 1864 Caddie Woodlawn was eleven, and as wild a little tomboy as ever ran the woods of western Wisconsin.
Vocab: (see the whole list)
- p. 59: “Sitting sedately among the billows of brown and blue denim and dotted challis, and stitching neat seams like her mother’s she looked shyly at the Woodlawn children from under her long lashes.” – a soft fabric of plain weave in wool, cotton, rayon, or other staple fiber, either in a solid color or, more often, a small print.
- p. 178: “One day, when the three adventurers were in the woods hunting for arbutus to take to Teacher, they heard a roaring in the river.” – any of various broad-leaved evergreen trees or shrubs of the genus Arbutus, including the madroña and strawberry tree, that are native chiefly to warm regions in the Americas and Europe.
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