During most of her half-century writing career, Mary Ann Hoberman has awakened young minds with picture book poems about llamas in pajamas and non-praying praying mantises. Nimble, but quite unfrivolous, this Children's Poet Laureate authored the National Book Awardwinning A House Is a House for Me as well as You Read to Me, I'll Read to You. Now she graces us with Strawberry Hill, her first novel. Like the woman who created her, ten-year-old protagonist Allie is enchanted by words. Her discovery that she and her family are moving to a rural locale known as Strawberry Hill lifts her anxiety and eases her transition to a new school and a new circle of friends.
Even if you didn't know that Mary Ann Hoberman is the current national children's poet laureate, with a shelf of distinguished picture books to her credit, you could tell from Strawberry Hill, her first novel, that you were in the hands of a seasoned writer. The restraint of her style is a tip-off that here is someone who knows how to bring detail and language into just the right balance to catch you up and pull you into the story…Hoberman maintains an exquisite balance between Allie's perspective and that of the adults around her, allowing for both a child's way of thinking and a polished narration.
The New York Times
In this old-fashioned coming-of-age story, set during the Great Depression, 10-year-old Allie's father finds a new job, and her family moves to a street called Strawberry Hill. Poet and first-time novelist Hoberman draws a full portrait of life on Strawberry Hill-where in fact there are no strawberries-as Allie agonizes over her conflicting feelings about the two other girls on her street: pretty, popular Martha, whom Allie wants as a best friend; and pudgy, sweet Mimi, who wants to be best friends with Allie. Circumstances of time and place are woven into the narrative, from details like the cost of popsicles to larger themes of poverty and prejudice. A number of Allie's friends' fathers are out of work, and Martha's best friend Cynthia calls Allie a "dirty Jew" at one point (Allie notes, "I wondered why I still wanted to be best friends with someone who still wanted to be best friends with someone like Cynthia"). Allie's plight will be utterly relatable to contemporary readers and the resolution is both satisfying and realistic. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8-12. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Gr 3-5–When the Great Depression hits, 10-year-old Allie Sherman’s family moves from New Haven to Stamford, CT, where her father has found a job. Once there, she meets Martha, who attends the local parochial school and warns Allie about Mimi, the “crybaby” across the street whose father is a “bookie.” While Martha spends time with her friend Cynthia, Allie befriends Mimi. By the novel’s end Allie learns what makes a true friend when she realizes that friendship with Martha will always be limited since she is willing to accept Cynthia’s cheating and mean-spiritedness. Allie also comes to realize that people can change, even adults. The story comes full circle with a satisfying, generally plausible conclusion as summer is about to begin again. Rich details bring the period to life, from books shared to the nauseating Lucky Strike cigarettes smoked by adults. This is a gentle story with the sensibility of a novel written in an earlier time. Characters are well presented, and secondary figures have telling details. For example, Allie’s mother responds quickly and angrily when her child is called a “dirty Jew” by Martha’s friend, though it causes an argument with her husband. This can be read independently or shared as a read-aloud.–Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at Washington DC Public Library
Ten-year-old Allie is beside herself when she learns that her family is moving far away from her best friend, Ruthie. When her family arrives at their new home, however, Allie begins to form new friendships immediately. There is Allie's favorite friend, the rich girl, Martha, who goes to Catholic school but plays with Allie in the afternoon. And then there is Mimi, who is Jewish like Allie, chubby and desperate for friendship; she attends Allie's school but has been held back in the third grade. Petty BFF politics take center stage as the three girls, along with a few peripheral characters, vacillate among loyalty, jealousy, friendship and rejection. Predictably and unrealistically, Mimi loses weight, improves her reading enough to get promoted to fourth grade with Allie's help and earns herself the overvalued title of Allie's official best friend. Minus the few passages and scenes that serve to establish the Great Depression-era setting, the story could have happened just about anywhere. Neither a great friendship saga nor a good choice for historical reading. (Historical fiction. 8-12)