Thursday, November 08, 2007
The next time someone asks for a book like Little House on the Prairie, I'm handing her Strawberry Girl (and Caddie Woodlawn). My newfound abhorrence of treacly old-fashioned books be gone!
However, Strawberry Girl isn't very treacly at all (ending is a little pat, but tolerable). It's hard to be treacly when you're strawberry farmers in turn of the century Florida. Especially when your neighbors are so difficult, what with their roaming animals, their troublemaking sons, and their gambling and drinking father (good old days weren't so good for many people). Admittedly, it doesn't help that there's such a wide economic gap between Birdie Boyer's family and the Slaters, which only brings upon envy and pride.
However, Birdie and one of the boys, Shoestring (formally known as Jefferson Davis Slater) form an uneasy truce. It's not all bicker and bother; Birdie helps her family with the farming, goes to school, "frolics" with the neighbors (you went "frolicking" if a neighbor hosted a gathering) and goes to town (literally) with her family (if a book features a country family going to town at any point in the story, it has me at "giddyap").
There's definitely drama woven throughout the book; the bickering between the neighbors escalates into significant property damage, one of the Slater sons causes serious problems with the schoolteacher (if a book features children and a one room schoolhouse, it has me at "A is for Adam"), arson threatens the Boyer household, and Mama Slater becomes seriously ill.
Papa Slater's encounter with a traveling preacher seems a little tacked on and rushed, but certainly not impossible by any means. It's just one minor flaw in an otherwise satisfyingly comfortable read.
Oh, the reader's curse of finding a long-neglected writer! Strawberry Girl is one in a series of regionally placed novels written by Lenski. Thankfully, we do have several, but the one I most want to read, Bayou Suzette (takes place in Louisiana) is out of print. This calls for an interlibrary loan, as does Lenski's autobiography!
Strawberry Girl won the Newbery Award in 1946.