Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Review: The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pub. Date: September 8, 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Print ARC
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Today Miss Chandler gave me this beautiful book. I vow that I will never forget her kindness to me, and I will use this book as she told me to—that I will write in it with truth and refinement…But who could be refined living at Steeple Farm?

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 grandmother’s journal, Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz brings her sharp wit and keen eye to early twentieth-century America in a comedic tour de force destined to become a modern classic. 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!) takes its reader on an exploration of feminism and housework, religion and literature, love and loyalty, cats, hats, bunions, and burns.


“But I think the most important thing those books gave me was a kind of faith. My books promised me that life wasn’t just made up of workaday tasks and prosaic things. The world is bigger and more colorful and more important than that.”  

I love finding a book that not only takes me by surprise; but also ends up as a favorite. One that I'm going to shout at the top of my lungs for everyone to read. When I first requested to review The Hired Girl, I didn't really pay too much attention to the blurb. Sometimes I'll read the first sentence and be like, "ooh, I'm going to get this!". So I started it and I immediately knew it was going to be one I liked.

For starters, the writing is simple and eloquent. The author has a way of grabbing you from that very first page and taking you away from reality. I've never been high in my life. Okay, scratch that. I've had laughing gas at the dentist, and I guess I kind of compare that feeling to when I read a really good book. It's like I'm physically there but at the same time, I'm millions of miles of way in another galaxy. It sounds crazy, but that's just my experience with reading literature that makes my insides go gah-gah.

Joan is fourteen year old girl, with a passion for learning and books. She loves to read; that should tell you right there why I knew I was going to love this story. Forced to quit her education, Joan yearns for a life of freedom. She's got a father who treats her like dirt, brothers who could careless about her, and a dead mother who wanted so much for Joan. More than marriage and working oneself to death. No, she wanted Joan to get an education, and be a woman who didn't need any kind of man to take care of her.

“I think I would rather have a cat than a sweetheart, after all. They are less trouble, and even the handsomest sweetheart is sadly lacking in fur.” 

You have to remember one thing, this is back in the early 1900s and women didn't have many of the rights they have now. They were expected to start at home and do a 'womans' work. Bah. That's such a load of horse manure. But that was the way way of the world back then. Anyways, Joan is fed up with her life and decides to runaway. She lies about her age and becomes a hired girl - a servant. There she works hard, gets to read books, and makes friends along the way.

She's still a servant though; low-class. Things that at times she forgets. Will Joan ever make it to become the woman her mother always wanted her to be? Or will she succumb to serving the rest of her life? Follow Joan as she stumbles on a path of religion, high society and its many rules, and finding ones true self. Overall, I adore this book to pieces.  

*Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Buy Links:
About the Author:
Laura Amy Schlitz has spent most of her life as a librarian and professional storyteller. She is currently a librarian at the Park School in Baltimore, where she has worked since 1991. She is a winner of the 2008 John Newbery award for her book Good Masters, Sweet Ladies!

Ms. Schlitz lives in the Loch Hill section of Baltimore County. She is single with no children.

She has also been a playwright, a costumer, and an actress. As of January 2008, she had written eight or nine plays, which have been produced at Stage One in Louisville, Ky., Pumpkin Theatre in Baltimore, Md., and the Children's Theatre Association, in Baltimore, Md.

Ms. Schlitz graduated from Goucher college in 1977 with a bachelor of arts in aesthetics.

In 1994, A Gypsy at Almack's was published under the pseudonym Cloe Cheshire.

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