Thursday, March 24, 2011

Caddie Woodlawn's Family

This book is marketed as a sequel to the Newberry Medal winner Caddie Woodlawn. It was originally published under the title Magic Melons. I suspect it was reissued under Caddie Woodlawn's Family to capatilize on the popularity of Caddie Woodlawn which is still found on many reading lists.

The word sequel is misleading. Sequel generally implies that the book takes off from where the first book ends. This book reminds me more of DVD deleted scenes that are often found in the extra sections.

The original Caddie Woodlawn is a mix of a central plot and individual family stories tied together. The blend makes for an interesting story. The sequel fails to achieve that balance.

This story seems to be the edited scenes that did not make it into the original book. Like the extra scenes on a DVD, you do find some gems. There are a few of these scenes that you wish had made it into the movie. These scenes tell you something about the characters or the plot that you would have liked to have seen in the movie. It is not hard to understand why most of the scenes have been deleted. The book is a compilation of stories that did not make it into the original Caddie Woodlawn. A few are gems that are worth reading. It is not hard to understand why the rest were edited out of the original novel.

There is a wonderful story about Caddie's sisters Hetty and Minnie's encounter with a neighbor. Another story gives background information on the Circuit Rider introduced in the first novel.

This story also demonstrates the need for editing and revising. The controversy over the Little House series ignores the strength and importance of editing and revision. I have not seen any controversy regarding Carol Ryrie Brink's authorship of these novels. However, the same arguments that were used against Laura could be used to question Ms. Brinks. Her first novel is very tight and strong. The Newberry award reflects the hard work to create a solid novel. The second book seems like someone published the edits of the first book as a second book. The first book reflects the importance of strong editing and revision. The second demonstrates that even an author can use the same material and characters and not have a positive outcome.

One of the positive aspects of this book was the chance to visit Caddie’s sisters who are mostly ignored in the first book. We get a chance to see Clara as a real person and not a stereotypical character presented in the first book. We see Hetty as a child with independent interests and an independent character in the second novel. Caddie seems to disappear in this novel. She is a much flatter character. She is not the vibrant, intelligent, engaging character of the first novel. These contradictions led me to ponder about the editing and revisions that led to the award winning first novel.

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