Fourteen-year-old Joan Skraggs, just like the heroines in her beloved novels, yearns for real life and true love. But what hope is there for adventure, beauty, or art on a hardscrabble farm in Pennsylvania where the work never ends? Over the summer of 1911, Joan pours her heart out into her diary as she seeks a new, better life for herself—because maybe, just maybe, a hired girl cleaning and cooking for six dollars a week can become what a farm girl could only dream of—a woman with a future. Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz relates Joan’s journey from the muck of the chicken coop to the comforts of a society household in Baltimore (Electricity! Carpet sweepers! Sending out the laundry!), taking readers on an exploration of feminism and housework; religion and literature; love and loyalty; cats, hats, and bunions.
Told through diary entries, Laura Amy Schlitz provides young readers with an engaging, historically accurate view of the life of a young girl in her newest book, “The Hired Girl”. When 14 year-old Joan’s mother dies, her difficult life on a meager Pennsylvania farm becomes even more unbearable. Although she’s a promising student, her father insists she quit school and work on the farm. When he burns the only three books Joan owns (including her favorite, Jane Eyre) Joan decides to leave home and look for work as a hired girl in a city far from the family farm. Joan pretends she is 18 and is immediately hired by a well-to-do Jewish family in Baltimore. While she’s no stranger to hard work, she has many lessons to learn about religion, tolerance, love, the servant/employer relationship and more. The glimpses into Jewish culture and religion and the efforts of Joan to understand them amongst her own development as a Catholic are wonderful. There’s much for today’s tweens/early teens to learn from reading “The Hired Girl”. The historical setting is interesting, while the messages about tolerance, education, equal opportunities, and “puppy love” are timeless. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to middle or high school girls who enjoy historical fiction or strong characters. 4 stars ~M. Vannoni
The Hired Girl is a moving and charming story appropriate for middle school children. This book is about Joan, a bright young girl, searching for a better life and future. Joan struggles to keep her spirit from being broken. She is a smart, fearless, and inquisitive character whose thirst for knowledge enables her to pursue literature, art, and music. Joan’s strong convictions sometimes get her into trouble, however, with integrity, she most often sets the issues back on an even keel. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and have already recommended it to several middle school aged children. A. Haynes 4 stars