Caddie Woodlawn
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4 / 5

"Caddie Woodlawn" Summary

By Carol Ryrie Brink

historical fiction | 288 pages | Published in NaN

Caddie Woodlawn is a real adventurer. She'd rather hunt than sew and plow than bake, and tries to 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 based on the life and memories 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 more than seventy years.


Estimated read time: 6 min read

One Sentence Summary

A tomboy named Caddie Woodlawn learns about life and friendship in 1860s Wisconsin.


"Caddie Woodlawn" by Carol Ryrie Brink is a classic children's novel set in the 1860s in the pioneer town of Dunnville, Wisconsin. The story follows the adventurous and spirited Caddie Woodlawn, a young girl growing up on the American frontier. The novel is based on the life of the author's grandmother, and it beautifully captures the challenges and triumphs of frontier life, as well as themes of family, friendship, and independence.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

The novel is set in the 1860s in Dunnville, Wisconsin, and revolves around the Woodlawn family, particularly their tomboyish and adventurous daughter, Caddie. As she navigates the challenges and joys of frontier life, Caddie learns important lessons about courage, responsibility, and the value of family and community.


The story takes place in the pioneer town of Dunnville, Wisconsin, during a time of great change and expansion in the United States. The town is surrounded by the beautiful and rugged Wisconsin wilderness, providing a rich backdrop for the adventures of Caddie and her siblings.

Main Characters

The novel features several main characters who play significant roles in Caddie's life and the story's development:

Caddie WoodlawnA spirited and adventurous young girl who is known for her tomboyish ways and her love for the outdoors. She is fiercely independent and often challenges traditional gender roles.
Tom WoodlawnCaddie's older brother, who shares her adventurous spirit and often takes part in her escapades. He is protective of Caddie and values their bond as siblings.
Warren WoodlawnCaddie's older brother, who is more reserved and thoughtful. He is often torn between his sense of responsibility and his desire for adventure.
Hetty WoodlawnCaddie's younger sister, who is known for her love of reading and her quiet, introspective nature. She often provides a different perspective from Caddie's boldness.
Mr. and Mrs. WoodlawnCaddie's parents, who are loving and supportive but also face the challenges of raising a family in the frontier. They provide guidance and wisdom to their children.

Summary of Story Points Over Chapters

Chapter 1-3

The story introduces the Woodlawn family and the pioneer town of Dunnville. Caddie's adventurous spirit is evident as she interacts with her brothers and challenges societal norms for girls of her time.

Chapter 4-6

Caddie's relationship with her mother and her struggles with traditional gender roles come to the forefront. She also befriends the Native American tribe, the Saulters, which causes tension in the community.

Chapter 7-9

Caddie's experiences with the Native American tribe continue, and she learns valuable lessons about understanding and respecting different cultures. The threat of a potential conflict between the settlers and the Saulters looms large.

Chapter 10-12

Caddie's bravery and resourcefulness are showcased as she helps her family and the community during a crisis. She also learns about the importance of responsibility and sacrifice.

Chapter 13-15

The story delves into the complexities of family dynamics and relationships, as Caddie and her siblings navigate their individual challenges and conflicts. The bond between the siblings is tested and strengthened.

Chapter 16-18

Caddie's interactions with the community and her role in solving a conflict between settlers and the Saulters highlight her leadership qualities and her ability to bridge divides. The importance of understanding and empathy is emphasized.

Chapter 19-20

The novel reaches its climax as Caddie faces a personal crisis and must summon all her strength and resilience to overcome it. The themes of courage and perseverance are central to the resolution of the story.

Main Events

  1. Caddie's defiance of traditional gender roles and her adventurous escapades challenge societal norms in the pioneer town.
  2. Tensions arise as Caddie befriends the Native American tribe, the Saulters, leading to conflict within the community.
  3. Caddie's bravery and resourcefulness are tested as she helps her family and the community during a crisis, showcasing her leadership qualities.
  4. The bond between Caddie and her siblings is tested and strengthened, highlighting the importance of family and unity in the face of challenges.
  5. Caddie's role in resolving a conflict between settlers and the Saulters demonstrates her ability to bridge divides and promote understanding.

Themes and Insights

Independence and Identity

The novel explores the theme of independence through Caddie's defiance of traditional gender roles and her spirited, adventurous nature. It also delves into the journey of self-discovery and identity as Caddie navigates the expectations of her community while staying true to herself.

Family and Unity

Family plays a central role in the story, and the novel emphasizes the importance of unity and support within the Woodlawn family. The bond between Caddie and her siblings, as well as the guidance and wisdom of her parents, highlights the strength of familial relationships in the face of adversity.

Understanding and Empathy

The interactions between Caddie and the Native American tribe, the Saulters, shed light on the themes of understanding and empathy. The novel portrays the value of respecting and learning from different cultures, promoting a message of tolerance and compassion.

Courage and Resilience

Throughout the story, Caddie demonstrates courage and resilience in the face of challenges and crises. Her ability to overcome obstacles and stand up for what is right serves as a powerful example of perseverance and strength of character.

Reader's Takeaway

"Caddie Woodlawn" offers readers a captivating journey into the world of frontier life and the remarkable adventures of a spirited young girl. Through Caddie's experiences, readers are inspired to embrace independence, cherish family bonds, promote understanding and empathy, and cultivate courage and resilience in the face of adversity.


In conclusion, "Caddie Woodlawn" by Carol Ryrie Brink is a timeless and engaging novel that captures the spirit of adventure and the enduring values of family, courage, and understanding. The story of Caddie Woodlawn's frontier experiences continues to resonate with readers of all ages, offering valuable insights and inspiring lessons that stand the test of time.

Caddie Woodlawn FAQ

  1. What is 'Caddie Woodlawn' about?

    Caddie Woodlawn is a children's novel set in Wisconsin in the 1860s. It follows the adventures of 11-year-old Caddie and her lively family as they navigate pioneer life, including encounters with Native Americans and the challenges of growing up on the frontier.

  2. Is 'Caddie Woodlawn' based on a true story?

    While the character of Caddie is based on the author's grandmother, the novel itself is a work of historical fiction. It draws inspiration from the author's family history and the experiences of early settlers in Wisconsin.

  3. What age group is 'Caddie Woodlawn' suitable for?

    The book is generally recommended for children aged 8-12, but it can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. Its themes of adventure, family, and friendship make it a timeless and engaging story.

  4. Are there any educational themes in 'Caddie Woodlawn'?

    Yes, the novel offers insights into American pioneer life, Wisconsin history, and interactions between settlers and Native Americans. It also explores themes of bravery, independence, and empathy, making it a valuable educational resource.

  5. Is 'Caddie Woodlawn' part of a series?

    No, 'Caddie Woodlawn' is a standalone novel. However, there is a related book titled 'Magical Melons,' which is a collection of stories about Caddie's ancestors and their adventures in early America.