How Old Is The Girl At The Beginning Of Us Book Review – Strawberry Girl

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Book Review – Strawberry Girl

Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski is one of the classic Newbery Medal winners. The medal awarded in 1946 speaks of a time that was better known and more relevant than today. Today, this rich novel opens a window into a time few remember. This is one of many books Lenski has written with an emphasis on regional stories that give young readers a taste of how American children lived in the early twentieth century.

Strawberry girl is an interesting read. At first glance, the title and cover image of a young girl carrying a basket of fruit may lead the reader to expect a cute story about a young girl who loves strawberries. Instead, the story is more about the clashes and tribulations between farmers and ranchers and how they resolved the violent conflict than it is about picking strawberries.

Strawberry Girl depicts two families, the Boyer’s and the Slater’s. Boyer moves from North Carolina to Florida to grow strawberries, sweet potatoes and harvest oranges. The Slaters are cattle people and have lived in Central Florida for a long time. They don’t believe in building fences and let their cattle roam all over the county, even if it means destroying their neighbors’ crops. The two families argue throughout the book. The Slater family thinks the Boyers are “updity” because of Boyer’s successful farming businesses. Slater’s routine is to sit back and do nothing to improve their way of life.

This way of thinking creates hostile actions and feelings between the two families. Violence and drunkenness escalate throughout the story. This book may cross the line for many adults when the neighbors start killing each other’s animals and the school teacher gets beaten up by the Slater boys. The incident forced the school to close for weeks. A little discussion with young children may certainly be desirable to explain why these incidents occurred.

Additionally, Lenski writes in a Florida backwater dialect typical of the period, which may be too difficult for third and fourth graders to read. I think this story should be read aloud to fully appreciate how the Southern dialogue sounded. For example, talk like

“Ha, ha! He’s no dog! Hit’s a raccoon.” and “he’ll get you again, the joke will wait.”

However, I don’t believe this book won a Newbery for its portrayal of aggression. It was a difficult time at the beginning of the 20th century, and the resolution of those conflicts is not typical for today. Strawberry Girl explains the daily activities of the Boyer family. A young reader can learn to accurately grind sugar cane and then pull it for fun. The book also explains the details of Florida’s spring and summer weather. It also deals in detail with how to grow strawberries in sandy soil. Part of the charm of this middle grade novel lies in the description of how the old Florida pioneers did it.

The Strawberry Girl is a sharply written novel about a rough time. It accurately describes a true pioneering adventure.

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