Review: “Caddie Woodlawn” by Carol Ryrie Brink

Caddie WoodlawnCaddie Woodlawn (Caddie Woodlawn #1) by Carol Ryrie Brink

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CADDIE WOODLAWN is a real adventurer. She’d rather hunt than sew, plow than bake, and 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 true, based on the life and memoires 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 over fifty years.

2 stars

I have no trouble admitting that this book probably would have been good, if not for my higher expectations of it. I read this in a slew of books for one of my classes at Ithaca College, and the books that we had read previously had a message. A story. The main character changed in the end. With all that, I couldn’t see how Caddie had a point at all.

When the book opens up, Caddie really did remind me of me as a kid. She’s a rebel, refusing to sit at home and instead running all over the prairies with her brothers. She has a great sense of adventure and of humor as well.

But Caddie, of course, is reaching the age where she really needs to grow up, and that’s what this whole book is about. One of her fancy cousins even comes over from the city to show just how much of a “hooligan” that Caddie is compared to other girls her age. The speeches from her father and her mother about how a girl “should be” rankle me like no one’s business. (Okay, the academic in me wants to say something else about this but that really isn’t the point of this so moving on…)

There’s also a lot of Native American racism in this book. That’s a thing. I know it was written in the earlier 1900s but jeesh. No wonder we can’t use it in schools anymore without fear of retribution from someone.

I know this is a really vague book review, but I think that’s kinda the point. There isn’t a lot that happens in this book. Caddie runs around and does some stuff. She saves the lives of a bunch of settlers AND Native Americans but the only thing that people keep coming back to is that she isn’t very ladylike. Her “big change” is to try and act more ladylike so she can be more of the girl that her parents want her to be, even if that person is the complete antithesis of the girl she was before.

In the end, Caddie seems proud of her transformation. I’m just a little bit sad. It may have been the right book from the times, but it’s not something that I’ll be passing on to my children.


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