Shoo-Fly Girl, Lois Lenski, J B Lippincott Company, 1963, 176 pp
I have not read much children's literature lately so this was a nice change. Lois Lenski wrote many books for children as well as doing her own illustrations. I loved her American Regional Series and read many of them as a child. I have re-read them over the past few years. Each book tells the story of a child and family in a different region of the United States back when regions were actually regional.
Shoo-Fly Girl is Suzanna growing up in an Amish family on a farm in Lancaster County, PA. Other families have cars, television, and ready made clothes. Suzanna and her siblings ride in horse-drawn buggies, wear clothes made by their mother, and do not even use electricity, though it is the early 1960s.
Suzanna got the nickname Shoo-Fly because one day she ate an entire shoo-fly pie, in secret. There is even a recipe! Her family gives everyone a nickname. It is hard to keep secrets in a family with nine children, though Suzanna and her adored older brother manage to keep quite a few.
The secrets and the experiences of these two children interacting with non-Amish friends are the heart of the story. Do they want to break away and live like their friends do or will they choose to remain Amish and live by the old ways? "We are Amish. We do not change." Those are the words they hear whenever they question the ways of their people.
It is a lovely story. As always, Lois Lenski did her research first, spending several weeks living with the Amish before writing her book. She brings it all to life: the strict but loving parents, the long hard days of chores, the deep underlying closeness and happiness in the family, and the stresses on the children who must come to terms with being different.
In this day and age, it feels a bit cultish though there is no evidence of any psycho, charismatic leader. Just a way of life being handed down for generations, very Bible based. According to what I could find on the internet, they are still going strong in Pennsylvania.
(Lois Lenski's books are out of print but can be found in libraries and through used book sellers.)