What a pleasure to go back in time and remember sitting/lying on our front porch one summer with this book. That summer I was living out this tale of the Florida "Crackers", as they were called. Birdie Boyer and her family have just moved to an old farm with ambitious plans to fix it up. Their nearest neighbors are the Slater family. These are not the nice neighbors the Boyers are used to. It's apparant to the reader that the Slaters do not want the Boyers on the farm.
The Boyers plan to raise sugar cane and other crops. The crop Birdie cares the most about is the strawberry one. She works hard on caring for the young plants but the Slaters allow their hogs and cattle to roam about and wreck many of her plants. Even after Pa Boyer erects first a board fence and then a barbed wire fence, the Slaters ruin the fences and push their cattle through the garden. Pa Boyer does a few things to get revenge but the Slaters manage to be even meaner.
Lois Lenski has an uncanny way with dialogue. She writes in such a way that I swear I can hear exactly how the people are talking. Here's a sample:
"Ain't them right purty, Ma?"
Birdie brought the first cupful in and Ma made shortcake.
"I think that's jest plumb good," said Pa.
The author wrote seventeen books in this series of regional stories. I like knowing that she did extensive research for each one. They have all been very popular. This one, however, won the Newbarry Medal in 1945. I don't remember how old I was when I first read this book but I would think a good reader of nine or ten could handle it. I'd also recommend it for those of us who are a little bit older.
Published by Harper Collins, 1945