Strawberry Girl

Strawberry Girl

4.1 37
by Lois Lenski
     
 

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Birdie Boyer was a Florida Cracker. She belonged to a large strawberry family, who lived on a flatwoods farm in the lake section of the state. They raised strawberries for a living.

Through all the hazards of the uncertain crop — battling against dry weather and grass fires, the roving hogs and cattle of their neighbors — Birdie dreamed of an education

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Overview

Birdie Boyer was a Florida Cracker. She belonged to a large strawberry family, who lived on a flatwoods farm in the lake section of the state. They raised strawberries for a living.

Through all the hazards of the uncertain crop — battling against dry weather and grass fires, the roving hogs and cattle of their neighbors — Birdie dreamed of an education that would include playing the organ. In the end she won not only the title of strawberry girl, but book learning as well.

This is a story full of enterprise and fun and tire excitement of real life in this interesting part of America.

Lois Lenski has used again her gift for catching the flavor and drama of life in a remote corner of America. It is the second of a series of regional stories through which she promises to introduce other fascinating and little-known backgrounds to boys and girls. This story will take a place beside her popular Louisiana story Bayou Suzette in the affection of readers.

The eighty-four illustrations are distinguished for their action and fascinating detail. They add greatly to this true picture of Florida life at a time when old Florida ways were changing to new.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Birdie Boyer is Strawberry Girl in this delightfully classic tale of frontier life in Florida. As newcomers the Boyers' so-called uppity ways clash with the Slaters, their fence-hating, land-squatting, free-cattle-ranging neighbors. Birdie helps her Ma and Pa battle the Florida sun, drought, and sandy soil as they attempt to put in strawberry plants and tend to their orange trees. Problems abound and tempers flare as the Slaters and Boyers meet with trouble; fences are cut, hogs are killed, a mule is poisoned, and a raging fire is set. The Slaters are beset with tribulation due to the drinking, gambling, and irresponsibility of their husband and father. Mrs. Slater and her children find themselves indebted to the Boyers by a life-saving act of neighborly affection, which changes the heart of Mr. Slater. Lenski intersperses historical spice and appeal throughout her story, while illustrating the hardships and trials of life on the frontier in early twentieth century Florida. 2005 (orig. 1945), Harper Trophy/HarperCollins Publishers, Ages 10 to 18.
—Sarah Nelson DeWald

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781435110977
Publisher:
Sterling
Publication date:
09/12/2008
Series:
Newbery Library Series
Pages:
216
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Callers

It was a bright morning in early April. Birds were chirping and singing in the shady trees. A barelegged ten-year-old girl came out on the front porch. She watered the plants in the lard buckets there. She picked off a dead leaf or two.

"Ma!" she called. "The pink geranium's a-bloomin'. Come see it. Hit shore is putty!"

Mrs. Boyer came out, drying her hands on her apron.

"Come down here, Ma, and look," begged the girl.

The woman came down the steps and stood at her side. The girl's brown hair was braided in two braids, looped up. Her eyes were big in her pointed face. She looked much like her mother.

"Ain't them right putty, Ma? I jest got to come out first thing in the mornin' and look at 'em."

"Purty, yes!" agreed her mother. "But lookin' at posies don't git the work done." She hurried back up the steps.

"Did I get some blue paint and paint the lard buckets, Ma, they'd look a sight purtier, wouldn't they?"

"Blue lard buckets!" laughed the woman. "Never heard of sich as that!" She disappeared in the house.

The girl took up a long broom made of brush-branches from a tree-and swept the yard clean. Its hard smooth surface felt good to her feet. Then she knelt in the path and began to set a row of bricks at an angle, to make a neat border. "I'll plant my amaryllis bulbs in the flower bed right here," she said to herself.

She stood up, her arms akimbo.

"Land sakes, somebody's comin'!" she called. "Ma! Callers!"

"Law me!" cried Mrs. Boyer, peeping out. "The Slaters! And my breakfast dishes not done."

The girl stared at the littleprocession.

Mrs. Slater, tall, thin and angular, carrying her baby like a sack of potatoes on her hip, was followed by the two little girls, Essie and Zephy. Some distance behind, as if curious yet half-unwilling to be one of the party, came a lanky twelve-year-old boy wearing a broad-brimmed black felt hat. The woman and children plowed the loose, dry sand with their bare feet. With each step forward, they seemed to slip a trifle backward, so their progress was slow. Bushy scrub oaks and a thicket of palmetto grew on the far side of the rough path, while a forest of tall pines rose in the distance.

The old Roddenberry house was not old enough to deserve to be called old. It had been built in the 1880's, the earliest type of Florida pioneer home. Deserted by the Roddenberrys after the Big Freeze of 1895, it had stood empty for some years, but showed few signs of neglect. The sturdy pine and cypress wood which had gone into its making were equal to many more years of Florida sun, rain, wind and heat.

The house was a simple one, but by backwoods standards a mansion. It was a double-pen plank house, with an open hall or breezeway in the middle. On one side was a bedroom, on the other the kitchen. Behind were two small shed rooms used for sleeping quarters. Wide porches spread across front and back.

The Slaters: approached the picket fence timidly, staring with all eyes. Mrs. Slater opened the gate.

"Howdy!"

The girl in the path spoke first.

"Hey!" came the feeble response.

The girl tipped her head and smiled. "My name's Birdie Boyer," she said. "Come in and see Ma."

She led the way onto the front porch and across the breezeway. The boy did not come in.

"Can I borrow a cup o' sugar, ma'am?" inquired Mrs. Slater.

"Shore can!" said Mrs. Boyer heartily. "Any time you need somethin', you call on me and welcome. That's what neighbors is for. Mighty nice to be near enough for neighborin'."

They sat down stiffly. An awkward silence fell.

"We had sich a heap o' work to do, to git this ole place fixed up," began Mrs. Boyer. "We ain't what you might call settled yet. Them Roddenberrys . . . "

"They got froze out in the Big Freeze," said Mrs. Slater. "They went back to wherever it was they come from. All their orange trees got bit back to the ground by the frost. Ah* no use messin' with oranges here. Hit's too cold in the wintertime."

"But the trees were seedlings," said Mrs. Boyer, "and they've come up again from the roots. When we git 'em pruned good and the moss cleaned out, they'll make us a fine grove."

"I got me a orange tree," said Birdie, "'bout so high." She raised her hand to a height of about three feet. "I planted a bunch of seeds from an orange once. This seedling was the strongest -- it come from the king seed. We brung it along with us and I planted it where the water drips from the pump. Soon I'll be pickin' my own oranges!"

"Yes, soon we'll be pickin' oranges to sell," added her mother.

"To sell?" asked Mrs. Slater in surprise.

"Yes, ma'am. We're studyin' to sell oranges and strawberries and sweet 'taters and sich and make us a good livin'."

"Sell things? Messin' with things to sell?" said Mrs. Slater. "Then you'll purely starve to death. Why, nothin' won't grow here in Floridy. The only way we-uns can git us a livin' is messin' with cows and sellin' 'em for beef "

"We're studyin' to always have us a few cows too, and cowpen the land. We git real benefit from our cattle, usin' ' em for beef and fertilizer, and for milk and butter too," said Mrs. Boyer.

"Why, them scrubby little ole woods cows don't give enough milk to bother with milkin' 'em," laughed Mrs. Slater.

"Where we come from," said Mrs. Boyer slowly, "we feed our cows.

"Feed 'em!" Mrs. Slater laughed a shrill laugh. "With all the grass they is to eat? Where you folks come from anyway?"

Strawberry Girl. Copyright © by Lois Lenski. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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