Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Strawberry Girl

I was very excited about this online reading project and spent days trying to decide which book to begin reading first. As the mother of four children, I have read bits and pieces and chapters of many of these award-winning books. Working in a Curriculum Materials Library at a University, I have easy access to all of them. So I remained undecided for weeks.

Then one of my daily patrons returned Strawberry Girl because she just did not think she could complete it for her Elementary Education class project because of the dialect used by the characters. I was intrigued. So the decision was made and I began to read. Unlike other librarians, I love to write notes in my personal books, but I was using the library copy and got my paper and pencil ready to jot down notes about my favorite lines or passages. The dialect did not bother me at all, but I must admit that no one passage struck me as note worthy. This disappointed me a bit.

Ever optimistc, I tried to think of the time when the book was written and find some connection to my own life. I was raised in Florida, but my family's roots are in rural Tennessee. My mother was a sharecropper during the 1930s and in many ways, this was the lens through which I read this book. My mother's family was very poor, but they found joy in many aspects of their lives. The children only went to school when all of the work was done and never went when there was cotton to be picked. Even so, they all graduated from high school and some graduated from college. Family and friends meant everything to these Tennessee rural folk, but feuds ran deep.

Published in 1945, I think this book might have resonated with some children. But in today's world, I am not so sure. I did not dislike this book, and was rather charmed by the dialect, but did not find it remarkable.


Bekah said...

Interesting that so many of these early books are causing similar reactions. I think perhaps because the criteria for the medal are so subjective, they are easily interpreted differently in different eras. What do you think? Do you think the tastes of children have changed so much? I do remember reading and enjoying some of these early winners myself as a child, so I'm eager to reread them and see if my own reactions change.

Sandy D. said...

OK, compared to the other authors, there's very little in the Newbery trivia book about Lois Lenski. It says she started out illustrating other author's books, and gradually became interested in creating her own.

Alicia said...

The only Lois Lenski chapter book I tried reading was dreadfully boring. It told about what happened (I forget which one it was -- not Strawberry Girl) to these kids but in a sense nothing really ever did happen. And there certainly was no suspense, no rising action.

It was like a Laura Ingalls Wilder book without the drama or character development.

Speaking of which, I am really surprised none of the Little House books won a Newbery. They're so good and so timeless.

Sandy D. said...

My trivia book says Wilder got "Honors" (she was a runner-up) for five of the Little House books. Hegel also comments that it is curious that she never won first place.

Ellen said...

The first Lenski book I ever read was Cotton In My Sack. I liked it then and I still do. Lenski never tried to prettify her characters. People can be mean, or shiftless or drunk. But at the end of her books, there is always hope. I like her books very much.

Rebecca V said...

Timeless? A Classic? Probably not, but kids still like it (I know of 11, both boys and girls, from ages 5 to 13)and so do I.