Schlitz, Laura Amy. The Hired Girl. Candlewick, 2015. $17.99. 387p. 978-0-7636-7818-0. Ages 12-15. P6Q8
Life in the early 20th century was especially hard for females, including 14-year-old Joan Skraggs who was condemned to loveless hard labor for her farmer father and male siblings after her beloved mother dies. Determined to have a different life, she runs away to Baltimore and is fortunately rescued by a Jewish family where she becomes the indispensible “hired girl” who can work on the Jewish Sabbath because she doesn’t follow their faith. Pretending to be 18 and calling herself Janet, the impetuous teenager finds herself falling for the older son, David, after he flirts with her and enjoys her quick mind. Her budding romance lacks a traditional ending but shows growth in the well-developed character. Laura Amy Schlitz, Newbery winner of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village and honor winner of Splendors and Glooms, has written a rich and full novel that may move slowly for some readers, but the first-person diary format is inviting and clearly demonstrates not only Joan’s maturing but also the details about the time. Joan’s experiences also reveal the anti-Semitism of the time and an understanding of art, music, literature, and Jewish culture.
October/November 2015 review by Nel Ward.