The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
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
You know you are in good hands with Newbery medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz. In The Hired Girl, readers are treated to a realistic visit to the United States in the early 20th century. Our heroine is the young Joan Skraggs, who labors for her family farm in rural Pennsylvania, caring for her brothers and father, who care little for her. Her one solace is reading the few books she has been able to gather, gifts from a teacher who recognizes her talents. To complement the books, she also relies on writing her own story in a journal that becomes the narrative of the novel. The story takes place mostly in Baltimore, where Joan becomes “Janet” after running away from the farm. She works for a wealthy Jewish family and learns about keeping kosher, navigating social classes, and first love, not to mention the world of art, literature, and her own indomitable strengths. There is humor, adventures, interesting characters, not to mention fascinating glimpses into an earlier time period. I found Joan to be a compelling and intriguing young woman, and imagine middle school readers will delight in her coming of age tale as well.