Quick Children’s Review: Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski

I recently got this book through Net Galley to review, and let me say right off: it was not what I was expecting. I figured a Lois Lenski book from the 1940’s would be pretty happy and light, telling the story of a little girl who loves/eats/picks strawberries. Instead this book was a fascinating (at least to me) look at life a hundred years ago in Florida, centering on two very different farming families who are trying to survive. The Boyers have just moved to Florida and are trying to make a living farming, including growing strawberries. The Slaters have lived there for generations and are rough and tough. The two families clash and come together throughout the book. Birdie Boyer, the ten-year-old narrator, tells most of the story through her voice. We come to sympathize with Birdie and her family, but grow a sympathy for the Slaters as well.

I can imagine this book being used in the classroom, but, as an educator, I would strongly suggest that teachers be very familiar with it in advance. There are lots of teachable moments in this book; however, there are also some disturbing scenes, too (drunken neighbor, slaughtered animals, beaten schoolteacher, etc.). It reminded me a bit of the Little House books, where you might be reading along and then strangely fascinated by something horrifyingly true, but in my opinion  it was harsher. Some of the book is written in dialect which can be challenging for young readers, too.  I would recommend this book for those in 4th grade and up. I’d be curious about others’ thoughts on it, too.

Thanks, Net Galley, for my preview copy!

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