Caddie Woodlawn is a classic of American young adult literature because it appeals to readers on more than one level. It illuminates American pioneer life by vividly describing the everyday experiences of the Woodlawn family, members of a loosely knit farming community at the edge of the western Wisconsin wilderness. Warm and realistic, the book depicts mid-nineteenth-century farm life and family relationships as experienced by an eleven-year-old tomboy.
Caddie is not only a likable literary character but was also a real person, the author's grandmother Caroline Woodhouse. Brink admired her grandmother's "tolerance, impartiality, and a detached philosophical attitude toward life," qualities fostered by her upbringing. The book pays tribute to that versatility and strength of character. Brink notes in the introduction to Magical Melons that her grandmother, who died in 1940 just before her 86th birthday, was busy and curious to the end. In fact, on the day she died, the real Caddie "made doughnuts in the morning, and repaired a lock on one of the house doors which nobody else in the house knew how to mend." Readers share Caddie's excitement through her numerous adventures and feel a sense of discovery as they piece together a picture of her life.
(The entire section is 200 words.)