MrsK's Seasoned Reader Picks

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

 The Hired Girl
The Hired Girl
 Publisher's Synopsis:
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. Inspired by her own grandmother’s journal, 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.

MrsK's Review:
Joan is such a delightful heroine. She is spunky, intelligent, resourceful, and very loyal. She is a hard worker, someone whose dreams will guide her decisions and provide the inner strength that will be needed to escape a life shrouded in oppressive misery.

Joan's story begins on the day that Miss Chandler (her teacher) gave her a journal. One in which she was guided to "write in it with truth and refinement." It was the day that would remain planted in Joan's spirit and provide her with the strength to change her life. Her father had decided that she could no longer continue going to school and in 1911, you did what your parents told you to do especially if you are a daughter and your mother is no longer living. Life on a farm with only a dad and brothers meant that Joan was needed at home. Her life was fixed, her days were filled with chores and her free time... well reading was a joy until that fatal decision when her father burns the books that her teacher gave her.

Joan boldly leaves the farm. She is heading to Philadelphia with a hope-filled desire to be a servant in a household that will pay her. Her train ride and the young gentleman who befriends her is an eye-opening journey. Once she arrives in Philadelphia, Joan discovers that there is no place to stay and with darkness approaching she is not sure what her options are. With prayer... all things can be made bearable. A young man discovers her on the park bench and refuses to let her sleep in the park. 

Once Joan is introduced to the Rosenbach family, she begins her journey into adulthood... being accepted into a Jewish family... and discovering the facets of her calling and inner strength. As in all of our lives, being young means that there will be many opportunities to learn your way along a given path. For Joan, her first lesson will be with Malka the treasured cook, nanny, and house keeper. Malka is aging and ailing, this is Joan's perfect opportunity to learn while being a blessing to Malka. That is if Malka will accept her help and the fact that she is a Catholic.

Given that Jane Eyre is one of Joan's favorite characters, the Rosenbach's sons are very intriguing to someone so young. Will Joan lose her heart to one of them or will she seek the forbidden education that was so cruelly taken from her? Befriended by Mirele, the Rosenbach's daughter, Joan soon discovers city life and shopping. Imagine buying your first outfit, shoes, gloves, and hat... now imagine the joy of purchasing your first leather book (of course this was my favorite part).

When Joan begins experiencing life with the Rosenbach family, she begins enjoying a life she could only read about. And yet, deep within her spirit is the desire to experience schooling, and being free from a life of hard work. A life of her own. Will she find it through marriage? Will she need to leave this family that has brought her in off the streets? What is the path that she must take?

Written as a diary, Joan invites us into her thoughts... her choices... her hopes and dreams for a future that is just beginning to unfold. Every character is so well defined. The setting depicts Victorian homes, cultures, cities just moving into the "care free" life style as the age of inventions is sweeping the east coast.

This novel is not just for young adults, it is an excellent historical piece and will bring great discussions to any book club. 
Enjoy meeting Joan and her discoveries as young girl maturing into a young lady,

Enjoyable reading with a delightful heroine!
Meet the Author:
Laura Amy Schlitz 
I have made my living as a librarian (I took off a couple of years off, to tour with a children's theatre - it was a gloriously free, and disorganized life, but eventually, I had no money at all). I love the theatre, and wrote my 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 I became a playwright - my plays have been produced in professional theatres all over the country. I love to make things; bread, marionettes, quilts, watercolors, origami animals. My hands get restless if I can't make things. For the past thirteen years, I've worked as a school librarian, and I am so grateful that I work with children - they make me laugh, and their energy reminds me to enjoy life.

As a writer, 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 got 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.

"I received this book for free for this review."
Candlewick Press

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