Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Review of Strawberry Girl by Mary Ann Hoberman
Hoberman, Mary Ann. Strawberry Hill. Illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin. Little, Brown and Company, 2009.
10-year-old Allie is sad to be moving away from her best friend Ruthie to a new town, but the fact that it's on a street called Strawberry Hill fills her mind with images of a hillside covered in green grass and ripe strawberries. Of course, it turns out to be an ordinary street with no strawberries in sight, but there is a farm nearby, plenty of room in her new house for her mom, dad, little brother, and Allie - and there are even two girls her own age on the street.
This turns out to be rather problematic, of course. The two girls, Martha and Mimi, aren't friends - and Allie feels she has to choose one or the other. Martha, her first choice, is fun and interesting but also occasionally lies, can be mean, and has an awful friend named Claire. Mimi, who at first seems clearly inferior what with her tendency to cry, her problematic family, her chubbiness, and poor reading ability, turns out to have sterling qualities after all. Allie is a sensible child with a keen sense of right and wrong, and she manages to find room in her life for all her friends, including a girl at school also named Allie.
I sank into this book with a feeling of great comfort and enjoyment. It took me back to some of the books I loved as a girl, golden classics like Thimble Summer, Strawberry Girl, Ginger Pye, and the Ramona books, that were about girls and their families and friends. Like those (almost all Newbery winners), this book is simply and impeccably written. Issues such as anti-Semitism and the Great Depression (the story takes place in the 30s) are touched on with a light hand, but Hoberman devotes her most affectionate attention to that issue dear to every girl's heart - friendship, with its corollaries of fairness and honesty. Family is important, too (like many kids, Allie is fascinated by her friends' parents, with their different ways of doing things), as well as such dilemmas as being forced to wear goofy home-made rompers to the first day of tap school.
Highly recommended for kids, especially girls, ages 8 to 10.