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The Hired Girl

May 14, 2021
The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

Winner of 2016 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction

Winner of 2016 National Jewish Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature


Joan Skraggs is 14; she lives with her father and three older brothers on a farm in Pennsylvania.  It’s the summer of 1911 when everything changes for Joan.  Her father removes her from her beloved school and she becomes the sole homemaker for her family.  Cooking, cleaning, and countless other backbreaking chores on top of a father who constantly reminds her that she’s good for nothing but working at home and will never amount to anything else.  Joan sees years of drudgery ahead of her and decides to escape to become a hired girl in a respectable home away from a verbally abusive household.  She figures if she’s meant to spend her life cooking and cleaning, she could at least get paid for it. She is hired by a Jewish family in Baltimore and never dreamed of where it might lead her.


My new favorite author!  This is the same author who wrote Newbery Award winner Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Which was also fantastic.  The story is engrossing right from the start.  Joan is a character to root for.  She’s hard working and has high ideals even though her father has seemingly no ideals.  Her father looks down on her for wanting to read or for wanting any kind of education outside of learning to cook and clean.  He reminds her repeatedly that no one will want to marry her so she will be stuck on the farm for the rest of her life—and the sooner she accepts that, the better.  But Joan doesn’t accept that.  She can’t.  She never sees herself becoming something other than what she is: low-born, ignorant, and unrefined.  But she’s determined to leave the farm and hopes to find a job where at least she can get paid for the work she does.

She ends up at the home of a wealthy Jewish family in Baltimore and proves herself to be competent and hard-working.  When the father of the family discovers her love of reading, he opens his library to her and her real transformation begins.  She learns about the customs of Jewish life and learns more about herself and her true place in the world.  

This book is so sweet and charming and fun and heartwarming.  I could not stop reading; I had to know what Joan would do next!  She is one of the best characters I have ever read.  The only problem with this book is that it came to an end.  I would have been content to read about Joan forever!  


5 boots!  


Anyone who loves historical fiction.  Readers age 12 and up.

From → Book Treks

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