Newbery Project – Strawberry Girl

Ten year old Birdie is excited about starting on her new farm in Flordia, but a feud with a neighboring family brings tension and unwelcome excitement.

This book almost rated four stars, but the highly improbably ending left a sour note in my mouth. I did not believe for a moment that a single kindness (even a long and sustained kindness) could so totally change the character of Mr. Slater. I could sort of see him being nice to the Boyers from now on, but his entire personality has changed. When he’s talking about the death of his livelihood and entire way of life, it says that previously he’d have been in a rage, but now he was gentle as milk. What? No. Having a change of heart, even a sincere one, does not change you completely overnight. He also seems to have kicked the alcoholism without any troubles whatsoever.

I thought I was going to hate the dialect – I usually do – but I ended up really liking it. I think that was because it was largely a vocabulary difference rather than a pronunciation difference. I wasn’t having to squint and think to figure out what a particular phonetic pile was meant to represent. A fair amount of the phrases, such as “might could” I have heard actual people use, so they were familiar to me already.

The setting was one of the most distinguished characteristics of the book. The time period was one that I was not familiar with, particularly in a rural Florida context, and there were lots of details and atmosphere to make it come alive.

Some of the pacing seemed almost episodic, a chapter would end with violence and the next one would open with something mundane. The little Slater girls were angry, then they weren’t, then they were. But there are many other books set up like that, and I think it was purposeful.

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