Caddie Woodlawn and a few other kid’s books

I just finished reading Caddie Woodlawn last night and had to share this passage that I loved. Caddie’s parents have allowed her to be a tomboy; but now she’s on the verge of growing up, afraid to change, to give up her wild ways and yet knowing she can’t be a girl forever. Her father has some wonderful words of wisdom for her after she’s been punished for playing a prank on her ladylike cousin from Boston:

“Perhaps Mother was a little hasty today, Caddie,” he said. “She really loves you very much, and, you see, she expects more of you than she would of someone she doesn’t care about. It’s a strange thing, but somehow we expect more of girls than of boys. It is the sisters and wives and mothers, you know, Caddie, who keep the world sweet and beautiful. What a rough world it would be if there were only men and boys in it, doing things in their rough way! A woman’s task is to teach them gentleness and courtesy and love and kindness. It’s a big task, too, Caddie—harder than cutting trees or building mills or damming rivers. It takes nerves and courage and patience, but good women have those things. They have them just as much as the men who build bridges and carve roads through the wilderness. A woman’s work is something fine and noble to grow up to, and it is just as important as a man’s. But no man could ever do it so well. I don’t want you to be the silly, affected person with fine clothes and manners whom folks sometimes call a lady. No, that is not what I want for you, my little girl. I want you to be a woman with a wise and understanding heart, healthy in body and honest in mind. Do you think you would like growing up into that woman now?

I think that’s a description of womanhood any parent would be pleased to lay before a little girl.

I enjoyed Caddie Woodlawn a great deal. I hadn’t realized it was based on a true story. It’s like a Little House book for tomboys, Caddie gets a little more rough and tumble following after her brothers than Laura ever manages. A nice glimpse of farm life on the frontier. There was one point where a storyteller referred to someone who was trapped by wolves and played the fiddle for them… reminded me of Pa’s story in Little House in the Big Woods. Makes me wonder if it was a common legend, or if it really happened and both books just happen to refer to it.

This past week I also read Calico Bush, which I know I saw recommended on somebody’s blog; but I can no longer remember whose. It’s the story of a French girl, Marguerite Ledoux, who becomes an indentured servant in Massachusetts after her only relatives die on their way to Louisiana. The family she’s bound to moves to the coast of Maine where they have a very hard winter. It’s a great taste of a much earlier sort of pioneering life than that of Laura Ingalls or Caddie Woodlawn; but similar in many of the essentials. Among Maggie’s trials is being the only Catholic in a family of Protestants, I thought that faith was handled beautifully, especially in the wonderful story about a surprise meeting with a Catholic Indian. The book started out in Marblehead harbor, which was practically in my backyard before we moved this summer. And the boat they family sails on is the Isabella B. I know one little girl who will be very excited by that little detail in a few years. The language was beautiful, the story gripping. This was a book I read almost straight through without stopping. My only problem with the novel was that it only covered a year of Marguerite’s life, the ending seemed almost too abrupt, and I wanted more, more, more.

Finally I have to mention Swallows and Amazons and We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea. I’ve seen Swallows and Amazons mentioned quite favorably on several blogs (I know Melissa Wiley’s was one.) but that was all I knew about it. What a great surprise. I’m almost reluctant to say too much because not knowing what to expect from the book made it all the more exciting. however, I know there are many more people out there who won’t pick it up unless they have a vague idea of what kind of adventure they’re stepping into. It’s a story about 4 children, two brothers and two sisters, who are spending their summer holidays in the English Lake District. They have a sailboat and that’s all I’m going to reveal. It’s a little reminiscent of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, but more British and with a family atmosphere. Aunt Polly never played along like mother does nor did she pack great lunches for the adventurers to eat. This series is good for both girls and boys; but I imagine it will especially appeal to the latter. The author’s simple line drawing illustrations are also worth mentioning as one of the books’ most charming features.

We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea is not the next book in the series; but I get the feeling each book has the ability to stand alone. I was greedy and jumped ahead because it was what I could get my hands on. The title is suggestive enough that I don’t feel a need to give any kind of plot summary. Suffice it to say it’s a seat of your pants adventure and you will loose sleep. Definitely a flashlight under the covers long after bedtime sort of book.

One word of warning, though; after reading the Swallows and Amazons books your kids will want to go sailing. I know I do.

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