Title: The Hired Girl
Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
Characteristics: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Class and society, Religion, Diary
For: Grades 6-10
Fourteen year old Joan Skraggs wants nothing more than to live the dream that her mother and the heroines from her novels inspired in her, to get a good education and become a school teacher. However once Joan’s mother passes away Joan is left to take on all of the ‘women’s work’ in the house looking after brothers and an uncaring and often cruel father. The drudgery of housework begins to wear on Joan but she holds out hope for a better future until her father pushes her too far. Armed with a few possessions and a little money her mother managed to tuck away for her, Joan sets out on her own determined to find paid work and build a better future for herself. Danger awaits a solitary young woman at the turn of the century who dares strike out on her own. Will Joan achieve her dreams and be the heroine of her own story or will her daring move to strike out on her own write a tale entirely new?
This book is written as a diary and so can easily appeal to reluctant readers who have the opportunity to read little bits at a time. Historical fiction is one of my very favorite genres so I was excited to finally have an opportunity to explore this story. Schlitz incorporates a few historical elements, including social customs, into the story without alienating readers who aren’t as fond of historical fiction as I am. I was intrigued by the religious discussions that are brought up in the book as I don’t often find them in the novels I read. Joan hopes to become Catholic but is taken in by a Jewish family. Both Joan and the family hold very strongly to their respective faiths, but they do take time to try and understand the faith and customs behind each. The family respects Joan’s religious education and in return Joan respects the religious practices the family observes for their holidays and Sabbath days.
The book also incorporates works of art into the story and displays the pieces in the back of the novel for curious minds. This was a little extra something that caught my interest! I give this book 4.5 stars out of 5.