Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Caddie Woodlawn

Caddie Woodlawn

Carol Ryrie Brink
Historical Fiction
For ages 8 to 12
Simon and Schuster, 2006   ISBN: 978-1416940289

Caddie Woodlawn is good at many things. She can climb trees, plough fields, and milk cows just as well as her brothers. But, alas, to the dismay of her mother and elder sister Clara, Caddie has very few ladylike accomplishments, and she is forever falling over her own feet, ripping her dresses, and saying the wrong things and at the wrong times.

Caddie lives with her family in a small house on the frontier in Wisconsin. She loves her home, the woods, and the neighbors. She has even made friends with one of the Indians, Indian John, and the two of them have a special, if mostly silent, relationship.

It is early fall and Caddie is eleven when our story begins. She is a wild young girl, who rebels against any efforts to tame her. Instead, she works alongside her family members, playing hard when she can, going to school when it is available, and having all kinds of adventures. She even faces grave danger during an Indian massacre scare, riding out into the night to warn Indian John that white men might be coming to harm him and his tribe. Caddie learns that unlike her American-born mother and siblings, her father was born in England and that he is an aristocrat by birth. As the year rolls around, Caddie slowly comes to see that being a lady might not be such a bad thing after all. Her dear Father helps her to understand that there is much more to being a lady than wearing hoops, sewing samplers, and writing fancy letters. It takes “courage and patience” and “a woman’s work is something fine and noble to grow up to.”

In this superb Newbery award winning title Carol Ryrie Brink has created a story which gives readers a fascinating portrait of frontier life. One can see what kinds of tasks were done at different times of the year, and how frightened the white people were of the Indians, even when such fears were unnecessary. It is fascinating to see how Caddie changes over time, and how she comes to terms with both who she is and what she is. Not only does she come to accept that she is a girl, but she also takes pride in her being an American living on the frontier.