I first read Strawberry Girl in Mrs. Basista's fourth grade class, and when I started this blog, I knew I had to make something to celebrate this awesome book. (Maybe partly, again, because of my love of all things Berry.) I'm giving a little more background for this one than I usually do, just because I feel like I should.
Strawberry Girl, written by Lois Lenski, is the 1946 winner of the Newbery Award. Ms. Lenski was a prolific author, and may be most famous for her books about children of various regions and cultures in the U.S., including Bayou Suzette and Corn Farm Boy. She also wrote several picture books and several historical novels, as well as being an illustrator for the first few of the Betsy-Tacy series (which we discussed last fall). I remember reading Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison (one of the historical novels) several times as a kid.
Strawberry Girl is one of the regional novels. It's set in Florida, and the characters pride themselves on being "Florida Crackers" - basically, poor farming families. The book features two main families: the Boyers, including Berthenia (Birdie), who is the title character, and the Slaters, including young Jefferson Davis (Shoestring). The Boyers are relatively well-off and have recently moved to the area to grow and sell strawberries, sugar cane, and anything else that will grow. Birdie wants to be friends with everybody, and wants more than anything to be a Strawberry Girl, selling her berries on a street corner in the nearby town. The adult-me wants to say, "wow, dream big!", but I remember being a kid and thinking how much fun it would be to grow and pick and be able to be proud of my own strawberries, so I must have gotten cynical in my old age.
As a side note, I have on several occasions attempted to grow my own strawberries. It never worked very well.
Anyhow. The Boyers' closest neighbors are the Slaters, who really don't have much of anything. They aren't farmers so much as squatters, and they don't raise their cattle so much as let it run wild. This doesn't lead to friendliness between the families, since Mr. Slatter isn't too happy about Mr. Boyer fencing in his land. No love lost between the dads in this book, which is really too bad, because the moms seem to hit it off pretty well. And Birdie and Shoestring could totally be BFFs, given the chance.
The things I remember from the 1994 reading of this book were how much I liked the main character, the desire I had to grow my own strawberries, and the description of a road made out of logs as a Corduroy Road. My friend Manna remembers mainly that the book is written in a strong dialect that's a little hard to understand. Neither of us remembered Mr. Slater being an alcoholic or the bits with animal cruelty (which really just stand to show you how much of a jerk Mr. Slater is - it's not like they're glorifying it). So, just be aware that, if you're giving this book to your child, there are a few things in there that aren't all sweetness and light. But I still recommend that you give this story to your kids, though, because it's an awesome book, and you really don't remember the unhappy parts. At least, I didn't.
So! For Birdie, who is the best Strawberry Girl ever, I have made this awesometastic Strawberry Bread. I found the recipe at the AllRecipes website, listed as Strawberry Spice Loaf, and all credit goes to , who posted it. (I just added vanilla and extra berries.) Thank you!
Strawberry Girl Strawberry Bread
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
2 16-oz. bags of frozen strawberries, thawed
2 tsp. vanilla
1. Preheat the oven to 350, and grease and flour two 9x5 loaf pans (I actually made one large and two small loaves instead of two large ones - if you do that, be sure to adjust your cooking time).
2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking soda. Dump the bags of strawberries into a (different!) large bowl, and squish them up with a fork, your fingers, or a potato masher to break them up a bit. Add the oil, eggs, and vanilla into the strawberries, and mix well.
3. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, and pour in the strawberry mixture. Mix thoroughly until everything is combined, and pour into the loaf pans.
4. Bake the loaves for one hour, or until a toothpick/butter knife in the center comes out clean.
I've been told that this bread tastes like apple cider donuts, without the apple and with strawberries. I've been describing it to people as "like banana bread, but with strawberries and without bananas." It's also really good with some whipped cream and additional strawberries on top.
So good! I know the color looks "off" here, but it's not. It really is that odd reddish color. You could add some food coloring if you wanted it to be more vibrant, and I meant to do that, but totally forgot. I bet it would be good with some pecans or walnuts mixed in, too.
Also, I know this post is more about what I thought of the book and less about the book itself, but I wasn't sure what else to say about it. What do you think - have you read it? Would you recommend it? And what would you talk about for this book, if this was your blog?