One of the highlights of my elementary school years was the Scholastic Book Order Forms. Periodically, the teacher would pass out these two-page book catalogs with a deadline at the bottom of the form. I treasured these colorful sheets, took them home and pored over them, agonizing over which book or two to order. Each book promised a different adventure.
It was through these book order forms that I found one of the first books I recall falling in love with and reading over and over – the classic Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski. In this book, I was introduced to Florida, a part of the country I was unfamiliar with at the time. I wondered what a palmetto tree looked like. I imagined the stifling heat. I learned that there is poverty in this world, and some people have no shoes to wear. My heart ached for Birdie when she had to deal with the bullies who lived next door, or a cold snap killed the strawberry crop. And I also enjoyed Lenski’s unique vernacular of southern “crackers,” a voice that was new to me. I quickly learned that books hold stories that can take me away to worlds beyond my imagination.