Children's Poet Laureate

Booklist - 06/01/2009 *Starred Review*

After someone has written for 50 years and won a National Book Award, it is hard to think of her as a debut novelist. Along with the You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You series, Hoberman is well known for her poetry (and was recently named Children’s Poet Laureate). This is, however, Hoberman’s first work of fiction. Set during the Depression, the result is a small yet highly evocative story that shows that while details may differ, issues of childhood remain the same. Ten-year-old Allie is not pleased that her family is moving, but when she learns that her new street is named Strawberry Hill, it stirs something inside her. Alas, there are no strawberries, but Allie does find friendships and hardships and her first brush with anti-Semitism when a girl calls her a “dirty Jew.” One of the best things about this is Allie’s narrative style. Written in first-person, it nonetheless seems a bit removed, giving readers space to make up their own minds about events. For instance, Allie’s incensed mother makes a scene about the invective, while her father wants to shrug it off (though he tells Allie she should inform her tormentor that Jesus was a Jew). Who is right? With story lines that are simple but never simplistic and perfectly crafted chapters in which the ordinary has the opportunity to become special, this is reminiscent of books by Elizabeth Enright and Sydney Taylor. To be illustrated.

Copyright 2009 Booklist