Sunday, August 30, 2009
A Sweet Read
On a visit this summer to my favorite bookstore, Cover to Cover, Beth handed me a couple of books she thought I should try. One of them was Strawberry Hill by Mary Ann Hoberman. It's taken me over a month to finally find time to pick it up, but I'm so glad I did.
I hate classifying books as either "girl" books or "boy" books, but I do think this book will appeal more to girls than boys. It will also appeal to children who enjoy stories set in a historical time, in this case, right after the Great Depression.
The story is centered around 10 year old Allie and her family. For the longest time, her father had to live in a different town from the family in order to be employed. Now, he has a new job that makes enough money for him to buy a house on a street called Strawberry Hill. Unfortunately for Allie, this street is in a different town than the one where she currently lives. So, she will be moving away from the apartment she lives in and her best friend, Ruthie Greenberg.
The move makes Allie the "new" girl, and she is filled with trepidation about that. Luckily, she has many good surprises when the family gets to their house on Strawberry Hill. First, there are two girls her age who live on the same street. Second, there is a real-live farm at the end of Strawberry Hill, complete with milking cows. Finally, her parents surprised her with a beautiful pink room (something she asked for and they said she couldn't have for a while).
Strawberry Hill does have some references to religion. One of the first girls she meets identifies herself as a Catholic and tells Allie she goes to the Catholic parochial school. When asked what religion she is, Allie identifies herself as Jewish, and that she will be going to the public school. Though Hoberman never delves too deeply into these religious identifications, it does play a slightly important part in the story, especially as the story is set right after the Depression and World War II. As a reader, I was pleased with the gentle way Hoberman handled the topics of anti-Semitism and discrimination.
The reason I feel that girls will gravitate toward this book is that it deals with real life friendship issues. Girls trying to choose a "best" friend, girls excluding other friends, and sometimes the way people can have a pre-conceived notion about someone that proves to be utterly incorrect. What was absolutely delightful to me was how Allie's younger brother, Danny, could assess the friends that Allie was trying to make with such clarity -- he was "spot on".
Strawberry Hill is a book I will be sharing with my 5th graders tomorrow. I'll be interested to see who picks it up after my book talk about it. That will be one more piece of the puzzle as I'm getting to know my class as readers in the beginning of the school year.