Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink is a 1930s Newbery Award Winner, based on the experiences of the author’s own grandmother. Caddie is a creative and active 11-year-old, resistant to the demands her nineteenth-century culture demands of her because she is a girl. In this fictionalized volume of adventures, Caddie’s fun occasionally brings her into danger, although her courageous spirit refuses to worry.
Although her stories are fun ones, Caddie Woodlawn does not capture my heart in the ways Laura Ingalls’s adventures do, and it does not provide the ultimate growth at the end of the book that gives satisfaction. Caddie has supposedly embraced some of her role as a girl in her culture, but I am not convinced.
Caddie’s adventures range from nearly drowning in the lake, to stopping a wildfire from burning her school, to befriending a local Indian and caring for his dog and his “scalp belt.” (There has been debate among historians, as the “scalp belt” described does not seem historically accurate. Did such a thing even exist?) Through it all, Caddie delights in being the tomboy she is. I appreciate her energy and her spirit of adventure. I only wish there is something in her adventures that grabbed me: I am not convinced by either the adventures named or the writing style that she is a real person.
I reread Caddie Woodlawn to decide if I should suggest it to my son for his reading once he finishes the Laura Ingalls Wilder series. However, despite the similar settings and the eras in which both the Little House and Caddie stories take place, Caddie Woodlawn does not feel as polished and realistic as the others. I can only recommend it mildly, and I don’t believe my son will enjoy it as much. It simply is not as good: something vital is missing in Caddie’s story.
Have you read Caddie Woodlawn? How do you feel it compares to the Little House books?