February 24, 2018

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The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz | SLJ Review

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HiredSchlitz, Laura Amy. The Hired Girl. 400p. Candlewick. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763678180.

Gr 6-9–Fourteen-year-old Joan Skraggs is a reluctant drudge on her family’s farm, and no one appreciates her. She pours her thoughts and emotions into her diary, which is the lens through which readers experience her life. And life on her family’s 1911 hardscrabble Pennsylvania farm grinds on endlessly. She loves to read and longs for more education, but is trapped by her circumstances. Her boorish father pushes Joan too far the day he burns her best friends—her books. Soon afterward, she escapes and makes her way to Baltimore. She is taken in by a wealthy Jewish family as a hired girl. They are like no family she has ever met; their affection, religion, and education bind them into a warm unit totally foreign to Joan. She grows to love the family and is surprised and hurt to learn of anti-Semitism. She learns—sometimes through near disaster—about keeping kosher, navigating social classes, and first love. Her world expands as she encounters art, music, and literature. Joan is a well-defined character who makes impetuous, sometimes humorous, mistakes like any teenager. Her diary is written with the emotions and thoughts of a teen, but with the literary structure of one trying to affect an older and more educated sensibility. Readers are treated to a domestic education as Joan describes the incredible amount of work required to keep house in the early 20th century. Coming-of-age drama and deeper questions of faith, belonging, and womanhood are balanced with just the right blend of humor. VERDICT A wonderful look into the life of strong girl who learns that she needs the love of others to truly grow up.–Lisa Crandall, formerly at the Capital Area District Library, Holt, MI

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s August 2015 issue.

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