Strawberry Girl

by Lois Lenski

Paperback, 1987



Local notes

PB Len


Yearling (1987), Paperback, 10 pages


The land was theirs, but so were its hardships. Ten-year-old Birdie Boyer can hardly wait to start picking strawberries. But her family has just moved to the Florida backwoods, and they haven't even begun their planting. Making the new farm prosper is not easy. There is heat to suffer through, and droughts, and cold snaps. And, perhaps most worrisome of all for the Boyers, there are rowdy neighbors, just itching to start a feud.


Original publication date


Physical description

10 p.; 5.2 inches


0440483476 / 9780440483472



User reviews

LibraryThing member Hamburgerclan
Well, I reckon I should write this hyar piece in dialect, 'cause that's how Miz Lenski done wrote her book. But I ain't likely to do half a good a job as she's done. Oh, well. If I had to give a one line description of "Strawberry Girl", I'd say that it is a PG-rated 'Little House on the Prairie'". "Strawberry Girl" tells the tale of a pioneer family of sorts, except that the Boyer family is settling in the wilds of Florida in the early 1900s. Other families have already settled there and a town is well established, but the country is still undeveloped and there are many improvements the family can make to their land and their lifestyle. What makes it different from "Little House" is that there's an edge to the "bad guys", especially the Boyer's closest neighbors. While the story is still rather tame by modern standards, Ms. Lenski honestly shows that everyone has their dark side, be it the drunken neighbor or Pa Boyer. Anyway, it's a nice peek into a part of our American heritage, one that I suspect has long past. My wife tells me that this book is part of a series of regional tales, most of which are out of print. She thinks somebody should remedy that, real soon now. Based on "Strawberry Girl", I'd have to agree. Like this one, I wouldn't mind checking them out.
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LibraryThing member cbl_tn
Near the turn of the 20th century, 10-year-old Birdie Boyer's family buys a vacant farm in Florida's lake district. Birdie's father plans to grow strawberries and ship them north. Each family member must do a share of the work. They face several setbacks, particularly from their antagonistic neighbors, the cattle-raising Slaters. Through her parents' example and her own experience, Birdie learns how to react to adversity, how to manage conflict, how to cooperate toward a common goal, and the importance of values like kindness, hospitality, and forgiveness. I might hesitate to give this book to young readers who struggle with spelling since the story is dialogue heavy in a regional dialect with non-standard spelling. Otherwise, it's an inspirational story that will appeal to fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books.… (more)
LibraryThing member DeborahJ2016
One of my favorite Girl Stories- and set in Florida, no less! Every time I hear someone called a "Cracker," I think of this book:
Miss Liddy hurried over. "The Crackers are coming," she explained."Just cowmen with their cattle! Hear how they crack their long, rawhide whips. They're driving a big herd to market at Tampa, to ship to Cuba most likely. Probably came from way up yonder by Jacksonville, buyin' up beef cattle all along the way." She paused. "Folks born in Florida or who have lived here a long time are called Crackers- after the cowmen."
"We're Crackers!" said Birdie proudly. "We was born in Marion County!"
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LibraryThing member foggidawn
In some ways, the piney woods of Florida is just as wild as the Wild West. Birdie Boyer's family is determined to make a go of strawberry farming, but they will have trouble not only with the hazards presented by the natural world, but also resistance from a cantankerous neighbor.

This book reminded me strongly of the Little House books, both in content and in writing style. Characters speak in the vernacular, which may present a challenge for some readers. The ending seemed rather deus ex machina to me. Still, I would probably recommend this to readers of all ages who can't get enough frontier fiction.… (more)
LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
One of the most interesting things about this book is the information it provides about a place and time in American history. The writing includes regional dialect and word usage that might prove difficult at first, but gives an essential flavor to the story. I also enjoyed watching how enemies became friendly neighbors, just by doing what was right.… (more)
LibraryThing member Omrythea
I scarcely remember this book. It sounds edgy from the reviews...
LibraryThing member jrbeach
Some books, like Little House in the Woods, are ageless. I don't think this is of the same caliber - I stopped reading it about 1/3 of the way thru.
LibraryThing member samcat1997
Really good book. Especially Strawberry Lovers
LibraryThing member keristars
When I was a kid, I loved Lois Lenski's Indian Captive so much that it got checked out of the library about every three or four trips - and we visited biweekly. I always wanted to read other books of hers, especially Strawberry Girl because it was about a girl growing up in Florida and I have always had a lot of pride in my Floridian heritage, but whenever I got to the shelf with the L's, I always ended up picking Indian Captive again.

I finally had an excuse to read Strawberry Girl last spring for an adolescent literature course assignment, wherein we had to read a Newbery Award winner and give a presentation. I hadn't thought about Lois Lenski in years, but browsing the list of titles, I was reminded by how often I had almost read Strawberry Girl as a kid, so I decided to finally do so. I really loved the book, though not as much as I like Indian Captive or another novel set on a Florida farm, Tangerine.

Just the other day, I was picking through my books to give some to a friend's kids and decided to read this one again. It was a quick read, and I managed it during my breaks over only two days, but I feel that I have a much different response to it than when I read it last year. I still like it, but I noticed a lot more that struck me as being very "1940s children's book".

The story can be summed up fairly simply: it's a slice of life sort of plot about two neighboring families in Polk County, Florida (as stated on page 75 in my copy) sometime between 1895 and 1902. The story begins with the Boyers moving into their new home, and it ends about a year later, with them having established a strawberry field and having received the profits from the first crop. The primary conflicts are between the Boyer family and the Slater family, who have lived in the same house for upwards of four generations and who are not very well pleased with the new way of farming that the Slaters have. Of course, at the end of the book, the Slaters have decided to give up their old ways and become more modern/civilized.

I have to admit that both times I've read this book, I got really sad around the end, when the Slaters decide to give up being cowmen and fence in their land, on account of the phosphorous company building fences anyway and destroying the land in order to get to the phosphorous. Even though this is about events a century ago, it's very much like what's going on more recently with the enormous growth in Florida, which is making the wild bits fewer and farther between. I grew up down here and my mom's family were Crackers just like the Boyers and Slaters, and I have such a love for the wild bits of Florida. It's just so dang beautiful, all the Spanish swords and live oaks and gators and armadillos and everything. So the end of the book, with the foreshadowing of the development of the state that was already in full-swing by the time Lois Lenski wrote about it in 1945, just makes my heart near to breaking.

Speaking of the development of Florida that goes on in the book, it's also the people who get civilized. I'm not sure that I'm so pleased with this aspect of the book, because it really plays up the stereotypes of Crackers. Not only do you get a really strong (and possibly off-putting, for some folks) written dialect whenever anyone speaks, but it's the family from up North who brings modernization and cleanliness and change (and even religion, for goodness sake) to the slow, lazy, ornery, and dirty folks from the South - even though the Northern family are poor farmers themselves, hailing from Marion County, Fla., via the Carolinas. One of the opening scenes has Birdie Boyer (the girl through whom the story is told) combing the Slater girls' hair - the Slater girls who had never seen a comb or mirror before in their lives! The final chapter has the schoolteacher correcting the children's speech even, which also bothered me, but then, I relished every use of "fixin" and "ary" and "studyin", because that's how my grandparents and their siblings talk, and though I grew up in a more urban area where the dialect has grown more like the standard US one, I find myself lapsing into those patterns when spending any time with my family.

So I'm not at all happy with the general movement of the story, with the whole colonialization thing, to use one of the words I learned from literary criticism classes. But I love the descriptions of the region, and I love reading the dialect (though many won't), and I love that this is a book about rural Florida. I can't say how many books I read as a kid that took place up North or out West, but I don't think I found hardly any that had the South for their settings, much less Florida. So even though I'm not well pleased with the theme of the plot itself, I love this book, and I think I'm not going to keep it for a while yet.

A note: the illustrations are more creepy than charming, looking through them again. Shoestring's face is so oddly drawn!
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LibraryThing member jerryreads
This story is about a 10 year old girl and her family trying to fix up and old home. The family is growing sweet potatoes, strawberries and oranges. The girl plants her own orange tree, and the family is growing other things so the can make a good living. But their neighbors doesn't think that growing fruit will work and they suggest to have cattle and to feed and sell them. None of them wear shoes they are farmers. And Birdies orange tree has been eatn on and her strawberries have been destroyed, so she ask her Pa if they can build a fence around everything. The boy that is named Shoestring thinks he is really smart, but Birdie doesn't like him. The kids went to school and met all the other kids. Shoestrings older brothers like to cause trouble plus the Slater boys ended up fighting the teacher and beating him up, and their won't be any school now for awhile. The family went to town and bought a new stove and Dan no longer has a toothache thanks to the town dentists. Summer was over and it was now time for cane grinding. Everyone comes for the cane grinding they have music and a bonfire. The fence had been cut and the strawberries had been damaged again. Birdies Ma had tricked Sam Slater by putting flour on the strawberries and they thought that it was poison. The orange tree had done really good. The family is a strawberry family. During strawberry season the schools were known as strawberry schools. The family picked strawberries twice a week. The Slater family doesn't like the Birdies family and their mule ended up getting poisoned. Now there was a grass fire and the school burned down. Mr Slater drinks all the time and that made it really hard on their family. Shoestring had to get Mrs Boyer because his Ma was sick. And the preacher came by and was hungry and when they eat the kids didn't eat with the adults. Sam Slater came back from where he went and he was very glad that the Boyer family took care of his wife. Sam Slater was a changed man. Now shoestring is going back to school when it gets rebuilt, and when Birdie got home from school she saw a organ sitting there something that she has always wanted.
Personal reaction: I enjoyed this book very much, It was difficult at first because of the way they talked. But i did enjoy reading it.
Classroom Extension: I could ask the kids if they had nice neighbors and if they got along with them. Also, I could ask if the kids could do what the people did in this book.
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LibraryThing member mendie.cargill
Birdie and her family have moved to the Florida backwoods. They settle down in the Roddenburry house and start a strawberry farm. Their next door neighbor, Sam Slater, the father of 6 children always gets drunk and is always angry.

Personal reaction:
One of the most interesting things about this book is the information it provides about a place and time in American history. I also enjoyed watching how enemies became friendly neighbors, just by doing what was right.

Classroom extension:
1. Grow an indoor (small) strawberry garden for a science lesson.
2. Have the students talk about if any have became friends with an enemy and if so, how was the issues resolved.
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LibraryThing member technodiabla
I read this to my 6-year-old daughter. She really enjoyed the views into the past-- what life was like for little girls. The dialect was fun too. I brought out my best Southern voices and she had fun correcting their grammar. The story has a nice moral to it as well-- try to get along with people, fueding will never end. Too bad that in the real adult world the solutions are not as simple in as they are in this book.… (more)
LibraryThing member arelenriel
This book was wonderful.
LibraryThing member larestout
A classic that should be read by all ,this book provided a refreshing look back in time when right was right and wrong was wrong. Although today's children may need a little historical background before reading this book, it will provide a link to an important part of American history. It was very interesting to read of Lois Lenski's life as an illustrator and children's author.… (more)
LibraryThing member MadeleinePemberton
Strawberry Girl is about a ten year old girl whose family moves to Florida and has to navigate the challenges and rewards of starting a new farm. I enjoy this book because it is a very well told story (very deserving of its Newbery Award) and would want to teach about it to introduce and/or explore historical fiction. This book is suitable for Grades 3+ with themes about farming, overcoming challenges, the differences between good vs. bad, and historical fiction (as stated earlier).… (more)
LibraryThing member Yona
Rounded up from at least 3-1/2 stars. It's very good but if you're very far from the target age group you might need to have a particular interest in children's lit to think as highly of it as I did.
LibraryThing member abwahl1998
This is such a pleasant book, although, I am afraid if teachers and parents don't prepare their children for the dialect used in here, kids would have a hard time reading it. However, I think the dialect Lenski uses really makes the characters unique, and I think it also adds to the conflicts experienced between the Boyers and Slaters. This story always teaches the lesson of perseverance, and we see the frustrations of all of the characters when things don't always go smoothly. I plan on reading the rest of Lenski's series once I finish my first challenge of all the Newberry Awards! However, this book ranks right up there as one of the best Newberry Award winners.… (more)
LibraryThing member satyridae
First and perhaps foremost, I'm not particularly a fan of Lenski's illustrative style. Her people just don't work for me, and never really have. That aside, the story is interesting and vivid but not compelling. There's a lot of what feels like exposition for exposition's sake. I remembered liking this until I picked it up again, then I remembered that I didn't much like it.… (more)
LibraryThing member klburnside
1946 Newberry winner about the Boyer family, who move from the Carolinas to rural Florida and buy a farm. They immediately begin to feud with their neighbors, the Slaters, a poor, rural family with a drunken, domineering father and rowdy, disrespectful children. The Slaters run their cattle and hogs over the Boyer property, destroying strawberry plants and the orange grove. Mr. Boyer retaliates by killing some hogs, and the feud continues. Of course everything works out in the end. I liked the descriptions of rural life and farming, and understood the anger of the Boyers family towards the Slaters, who so quickly destroyed the things they worked so hard to grow.

Spoiler alert: I didn't enjoy the fact that the drunken Slater father was saved so quickly by the self-righteous, gluttonous preacher who ate all of the family's chicken, leaving none for the hungry children.
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LibraryThing member fuzzi
I thoroughly enjoyed this well-researched story about poor farmers living in early 1900s Florida.
LibraryThing member Glenajo
Birdie moves to Florida with her family to build a farm, battling weather and neighbors opposing fences. With work and neighborly effort, Birdie’s family finally makes the strawberry crop into profits and settles things with the neighbors. The book contains descriptions of poor choices between the neighbors and the parents, as well as the strong dialect of the day.

In Strawberry Girl, Lois Lensky painted a detailed picture of the lives of Floridians in the middle 1900’s. It is astonishing to realize that not so many years ago, people were still speaking so poorly and education level so low in so many areas of the United States. While the story accurately depicts the time, the dialect may cause many younger readers to stumble loosing much of the story. This is an excellent read-aloud and better for later elementary due to the feud and the dialect. The e-book contains an illustrated biography of Lenski and presents an old classic in a different format.

Received Galley from
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LibraryThing member sarahdvs
Summary: This is a story about a ten-year old girl and her family trying to fix up an old house. The girl has planted an orange tree and hopes to pick her own oranges from it soon. The family is growing oranges, strawberries and sweet potatoes among other things to sell so they can make a good living for their family. But their neighbors think that growing fruit won't work instead they suggest messing with cows and selling them for beef. They don't wear shoes and they are farmers. Everybody keeps saying that the strawberries won't make. Birdie's orange tree has been ate on and her strawberries have been destroyed. So she ask her Pa if they could build a fence in the grove and all their fields. The boy named Shoestring thinks he is smart and Birdie doesn't like him. The kids went to school and met all the other kids. All the grades must have been altogether. Shoestring's older brothers seem to love to cause trouble. The Slater boys ended up fighting the teacher. The teacher is pretty beat up. The teacher will not be having school for awhile since the Slater boys beat him up. Birdie love the organ. Birdie is still mad at Shoestring about the snake incident. She hated him. But now she isn't mad anymore. The family had went into town and got a new cooking stove. The kids are having fun with a couple of gophers. Dan no longer has a toothache, thanks to the town dentist. The storm was a little rough. Summer was over and cane grinding had come. Everybody comes over for the cane grinding. They had music going on and a bonfire, everybody was having a great time. The wire fence had been cut and the strawberries had been damaged once again. Birdie's Ma tricked the Sam Slater by putting flour on the strawberries thinking that it was poison. The orange tree did great after all. Soon they will be picking strawberries. The family is a strawberry family. During the strawberry season the schools were known as strawberry schools. The family picked strawberries twice a week. The family had sold their berries. Pa loves animals even if they ain't his own. The Slater family does not like Birdie's family. The mule ended up getting poisoned. Now there is a grass fire. The school got burned down. The Boyer's got a new mule, but the Slater girls know about it. Hopefully they won't tell anybody. The girls had invited the Boyer family to their family get together. Mr. Slater drinks all the time and makes it hard on the Slater family. Shoestring had to go get Mrs. Boyer because his Ma is sick. Mrs. Slater was really sick, the girls were better now. The preacher came by and was very hungry but the kids didn't eat with the adults. Shoestring doesn't want a whopping. Sam Slater is back from where ever he went and he is glad that the Boyer family took care of his wife. Sam Slater is a different/changed man. Shoestring is going to school as soon as the new school house is built. When Birdie got home from school, there sit a organ, something Birdie has always wanted.
Personal Reaction: I enjoyed this book, it was a little hard to understand at first, probably because I'm not use to that kind of talk. But all in all I really enjoyed this book.
Classroom Extension Idea: 1. I could ask the kids if they could do all that the people in this book did. 2. I could ask the kids if they had nice neighbors and got along with them.
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I loved this book as a child in the late 60s, and then re-visited it in my early 50s and was so let down.

The level of animal neglect and abuse, the meaness, revenge, vindictive nature of the characters were a major turn off to me as an adult. I can't imagine why I loved it as a kid.
LibraryThing member debnance
How could a child read this book and complain about her life in 21st century America? The two families in this book suffer from the ravages of grasshoppers, illness, hunger, and jealousy. They argue and fight with each other, eventually going so far as to kill each other’s animals and set fire to the other’s farmhouse. A hardscrabble life complete with rattlesnakes and alligators and swamps. Yet there was also a beauty to this life, of neighbors helping each other, even when they have little for themselves. Some unbelievable elements---an alcoholic dad suddenly stops drinking and a child who never seems to do anything worse than get a little mad now and then---but all in all a worthwhile read.… (more)




(188 ratings; 3.8)
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