'Strawberry Girl' when I was growing up. I think I recall picking it up and flipping through it and seeing the dialects on the page and realizing that there were no fairies in it, and that it was about some little girl in Florida doing some kind of farming and I was bitterly disappointed. I thought ugh, borrrrrrring, pass.
Flash forward to Julia's toddler years, when I bought nearly all of Lenski's books for tiny tots, like 'Policeman Small' and the hilarious 'The Little Family' (you will laugh/cry/rage at the way gender roles are described) and our special favorite, 'Cowboy Small'. I rediscovered Lenski's deceivingly simple and distinctive old fashioned illustrations and thought, maybe I should try out 'Strawberry Girl' again someday? And then forgot all about it.
'Strawberry Girl'." And I was like wow, I can't believe you read that and it had nothing to do with me and I was so happy that she liked it and I was also so impressed that she got through the strong dialects written in the story - Julia calls books like that (see also 'Misty of Chincoteague') "shore books" - because in particular areas of America, people pronounced "sure" as "shore" as in "I SHORE did." Anyway, she loved the book, and was shocked and amazed that I had never read it. So I went and bought myself a copy - since it's such a classic, I thought that I should own it, and then I sat down and read.
When Julia saw me reading it, she actually made me read parts of it to her out loud, even though she had just read it and I was more than halfway through.
And now that I've finished it, I can see why she liked it, and as one of the biggest card-carrying LHOTP Laura Ingalls Wilder fans that you will ever ever ever see, I can't FATHOM how this book got away from me, along with the rest of Lenski's regional books that chronicled different parts America in the early 20th century. Lenski moved in and studied the communities she wrote about closely, and poured particular attention into detailing the children. It was important to her to accurately depict how people were actually living in various areas small areas and towns around the United States.
the LHOTP books - the kids in the story are poor, dirty, and one father in the book is a drunken mess and that's made very clear; his drunken gambling rages are mentioned at least five or more times), I can't WAIT to get my hands on more, specifically 'Prairie School', which many consider to be their favorite Lois Lenski story - it details a 'The Long Winter'-like setting about kids trapped within their schoolhouse for two weeks during a blizzard.
By the way, check out the art in that last pic up above, fantastic no?
(~Lenski altered things to fit her plots, but most of the actions of characters in her books were taken from real events she either witnessed or was told about.)
Family 1 has a son who likes to throw LIVE SNAKES (of the non lethal variety) at Strawberry Girl's head and feed live rabbits to rattlesnakes. He's pretty fascinating because he swings wildly in the story between acting like a punk, while also possessing an awareness of how his drunken father's actions are negatively affecting his family's fortunes.
The Florida setting is vividly described - the kids have tortoise races, there are alligators in the middle of the road and summer vacation takes place instead in the winter months, which is when the strawberry harvest ripens. You can totally FEEL the heat and the swelter and the dirt, no joke.
So have I sold you on 'Strawberry Girl'? It's definitely Not Boring. Have you read it? Have you read any of her other books? Shall we meet again to discuss 'Prairie School'? Or 'Houseboat Girl'? I think we should.