Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz brings her delicious wit and keen eye to early twentieth-century America in a moving yet comedic tour de force. 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.
The Hired GirlFeatured
The author pulls the reader right into the early 20th century from the very first page. There a million little details (like the narrator, Joan, bemoaning a watch that costs nine dollars) that make you feel as though you're in that time period. The settings are so richly drawn that the reader can picture everything so clearly.
My favorite part of the novel is Joan's narration. So often I find books with teenage narrators who sound like they're in their mid-twenties. That is definitely not the case with Joan! She sounds like she's fourteen, and some of her diary entries reminded me of my own diary that I kept at that age. I loved how genuine she felt as a character. Joan is romantic, impulsive, impassioned, and uncertain. She faces many challenges (some of them, admittedly, due to her own folly), but she does so with bravery and heart.
I also appreciated the juxtaposition of bigger issues with Joan's smaller, every day troubles. Joan tackles being a Catholic girl working for a Jewish family, prejudice, feminism, social class, and more while also wishing she could buy a pretty hat and laboring through an intense carpet cleaning. The novel explores many different aspects of life.
What Left Me Wanting More:
Joan's journey is just beginning at the end of the novel! Since she's so young, I'd love to see her grow and mature as a woman and as a scholar.
The Final Verdict:
THE HIRED GIRL is a lovely novel that explores everything from feminism to religious oppression, told through the raw, authentic voice of a teenage girl.