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The Hired Girl
Cover of The Hired Girl
The Hired Girl
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Winner of the 2016 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction
A 2016 Association of Jewish Libraries Sydney Taylor Award Winner
Winner of the 2016 National Jewish Book Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature

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.

Winner of the 2016 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction
A 2016 Association of Jewish Libraries Sydney Taylor Award Winner
Winner of the 2016 National Jewish Book Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature

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.

Available formats-
  • OverDrive Read
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Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    2
  • Library copies:
    2
Levels-
  • ATOS:
  • Lexile:
    810
  • Interest Level:
  • Text Difficulty:
    3 - 4

Recommended for you

About the Author-
  • Laura Amy Schlitz is the author of the Newbery Medal–winning Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, the Newbery Honor book and New York Times bestseller Splendors & Glooms, and several other books for young readers. A teacher as well as a writer, Laura Amy Schlitz lives in Maryland.

    Laura Amy Schlitz says that as a child, she was very lucky. "My parents gave me plenty of time to play and dream. Often, I pretended to be someone else; a ballerina, a horse, a mermaid, a spy. My brother and I ruled over a kingdom of stuffed animals—I was 'The Great Laurie', and the national anthem was the 'Grand March' from Aida." She adored fairies and fairy tales. "I gathered bread crusts and hid them under the dining-room table—people in fairy tales were often described as 'not having a crust to eat,' and I was determined to save my family from this fate." She also taught herself to sleep in the flying-leap pose, favored by Peter Pan on the cover of her fairy tale book so that if Peter dropped by when she was asleep, he would know, from her body position, that she was willing to join him in Neverland. "He has yet to turn up, but I still sleep in that position, though I wake with a stiff back."

    Laura Amy has made her living as a librarian, although she took a couple of years off to tour with a children's theater: "It was a gloriously free and disorganized life, but eventually, I had no money at all." She still loves the theater, and wrote her first stage play for a friend who needed a last-minute script for Beauty and the Beast. It turned out better than anyone expected, and Laura Amy Schlitz became a playwright whose plays have been produced in professional theaters all over the country. She loves to make things: bread, marionettes, quilts, watercolors, origami animals. She says, "My hands get restless if I can't make things." For the past thirteen years, she has worked as a school librarian, about which she says, "I am so grateful that I work with children—they make me laugh, and their energy reminds me to enjoy life."

    About her writing, she notes, "I do a lot of complaining. People often ask why I write, when I hate it so much. I answer that I write because I am under a curse. I keep meaning to give up writing, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. I dread sitting down to write, and I have to resort to tricks to get myself to the paper. 'One half hour, or one page,' I promise myself, 'then you can get up and do something you like.' I go to the bathroom, take the telephone off the hook, fill my fountain pen, get myself a glass of water, and sit down. Once I sit, my rear end has to stay in place until I've written. I often say that I write with my rear end—it's the ballast that holds me steady while I fight for words."

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 13, 2015
    Desperate for the education her father denies her on their Pennsylvania farm, 14-year-old Joan runs away to Baltimore in 1911, where a well-to-do Jewish family hires her to help their obstinate, aging housekeeper. Schlitz (Splendors & Glooms) has crafted another exquisite literary gem, one told entirely via Joan’s vivid, humorous, and emotionally resonant diary entries over a year and a half. Through Joan’s naïve perspective, Schlitz frankly discusses class, religion, women’s education, art, literature, and romance. Joan has trouble reconciling her devout Catholic faith with Judaism, mixing up kashrut and even attempting to convert her employers. Yet because Joan is a hard worker, the Rosenbachs are forgiving and good to her, even encouraging her to read from their library. Joan is reminiscent of heroines like Anne Shirley, Jo March, Cassandra Mortmain, and her own favorite character, Jane Eyre (Joan even gives herself a fittingly literary alias, Janet Lovelace). Her overactive imagination, passions, and impulsive disregard for propriety often get Joan into trouble, but these same qualities will endear her to readers everywhere. Ages 12–up. Agent: Stephen Barbara, Inkwell Management.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from March 1, 2016
    Gr 7 Up-Fourteen-year-old Joan Skraggs is forced to quit school, much to her dismay, in order to help out on Steeple Farms, where her father and three brothers work. Having lost her mother at an early age, Joan finds herself struggling to do all the chores for the men-cooking, cleaning, washing, and any other chore her father assigns her. Joan's only escape from the daily grind and drudgery of cleaning out privies and wringing out laundry is her love of books, which her teacher gave her when she left school. Joan longs for adventure and true love just like the heroine in her favorite book, "Jane Eyre". She yearns for a life away from the farm, and because there is no one else to whom she can divulge her feelings, she pours out her heart into her diary. While the novel is told entirely in diary format, Rachel Botchan's excellent reading of Joan's emotions, dreams, and yearnings will keep readers captivated. The story of a young girl searching for and finally discovering a world away from the farm is not a unique one, but Botchan's narration elevates this portrayal of a vibrant, interesting, resourceful young lady who strives to take advantage of what the world has to offer in 1911. VERDICT Highly recommended. ["Coming-of-age drama and deeper questions of faith, belonging, and womanhood are balanced with just the right blend of humor": "SLJ" 8/15 starred review of the Candlewick book.]-"Sheila Acosta, San Antonio"

    Copyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • DOGO Books Happy Girl - I read this book because the author is one of my favorite writers. I was totally drawn into the plot because her descriptions were so realistic. I recommend this to readers who like historical fiction. I would rate it 5 stars.
  • Kirkus

    Starred review from July 15, 2015
    Joan runs away from home at age 14 to become a hired girl in 1911. Life with her unpleasant father and brothers on their farm in Pennsylvania is rough. Knowing she is not loved, she sees escape when she learns that the going rate for a hired girl in the city is $6 a week. She lands in Baltimore over her head and is rescued by the Rosenbachs. A large young woman, Joan presents herself as Janet, 18, impressing Mrs. Rosenbach with her love of reading, quickly making herself indispensable to the aging housekeeper, and landing a job as a hired girl and "Shabbos goy." Joan is smart, hardworking, and naive, but most of all, she's romantic, thanks in large part to all those novels. The Rosenbachs' flirty son David seems to love her both for her mind and-as an aspiring artist-her looks. "Tall and robust and wholesome looking. You're like one of Michelangelo's Sibyls-a grand, bareheaded creature." Trouble ensues, but a happy ending awaits, with friendship and the awesome glint of an independent life. The diary format allows Joan's romantic tendencies full rein, as well as narrative latitude for a few highly improbable scenarios and wildly silly passion. Tons of period details, especially about clothing, round out a highly satisfying and smart breast-clutcher from this Newbery-winning author. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from July 1, 2015
    Grades 7-10 *Starred Review* Growing up on a hardscrabble farm, Joan learned to avoid her cruel father, but she adored her mother, who encouraged her to work hard, study her lessons, and earn her own way in the world. In 1911, after Ma's death, 14-year-old Joan clashes with her father and flees to Baltimore. Representing herself as 18, she is taken into the household of a wealthy Jewish family as a hired girl. Joan works hard to please the Rosenbachs and their beloved, aging housekeeper, the testy Malka. Over the next few months, the girl makes her share of mistakes: eavesdropping, meddling, developing crushes on her employers' sons, and even setting her hair on fire (while reading by candlelight). True to her age, she becomes infatuated with two young men and also struggles with religion. Skipping forward a year, the last chapter offers a hopeful ending. Written as a diary, the first-person narrative brings immediacy to Joan's story and intimacy to her confessions and revelations. The distinctive household setting and the many secondary characters are well developed, while Joan comes alive on the page as a vulnerable, good-hearted, and sometimes painfully self-aware character struggling to find her place in the world. A memorable novel from a captivating storyteller. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The award-winning, best-selling Schlitz seems to have the Midas touch. Expect her latest to have a golden shine as well.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2015, American Library Association.)

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    Candlewick Press
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Laura Amy Schlitz
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