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The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

The Hired Girl

by Laura Amy Schlitz

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    I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (charl08)
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An absorbing young adult historical fiction novel set in 1911 about a young girl seeking a better life for herself. Told in diary format.
  mcmlsbookbutler | May 4, 2017 |
The Hired Girl is an engrossing book told in diary form. Joan aka Janet has to leave her family farm because of the cruelty and insensitivity of her father. Her journey to Baltimore, and the life she creates there form the heart of the book. "Janet" encounters Judaism for the first time, and learns to adjust to the customs followed by her employers. She receives kindness and understanding from many of the family members. Joan also blunders along the way as she struggles with her own Catholicism, her place in the household, and the feelings that a first crush can bring. Joan's strong and intelligent voice brings credibility and interest as she tells her own story and thoughts in her own words.

This book would be a good fit for a reader interested in the early 1900s and life during that time period. It would be a good book for readers interested in a strong, young protagonist who encounters hardship and obstacles but manages to overcome them. It is also a good book to introduce readers to some of the customs that are part of a Jewish household. ( )
  mcintorino | Mar 26, 2017 |
It's 1911 and Joan/Janet can no longer bear her life on the family farm with her cruel father and three brothers. She goes on the run with money her mom left before her death hidden and sewn in an apron. She ends up on the streets of Baltimore and the young, Catholic girl becomes a hired girl working for a Jewish family. The book is written as her daily diary of her experiences.
I don't think this will appeal widely to students. I wanted to see how Janet's story would end which kept me reading. ( )
  ewyatt | Jan 28, 2017 |
It is June 4, 1911, Joan Skraggs has told her teacher, Miss Chandler, she will not be attending school any longer. Joan's father has decided it is more important for her to take care of the house and chickens than for her to have an education. Joan is heartbroken because she loved the school and Miss Chandler. Miss Chandler has given Joan a diary as a going away gift.

Joan lives with her father and brothers where she slaves doing "the women's work." Her father is a hard man whose only concern is with money. The only one who ever loved her has died, her mother. Joan's mother had been allowed by her husband, to keep the money she earned from selling eggs, so Joan thought she should now receive that money. Her father refuses, saying he did not have to pay for raising Joan's mother but he had to pay for raising Joan. Joan decides to stage a partial strike. She refuses to cook for him and her brothers and stopped cleaning their filthy rooms. After having a yelling match with her father, her father burnt Joan's most prized possessions, her books. Fortunately her father has never physically hurt his daughter, only mental cruelty.

After her books had been burned Joan decides to leave the farm for good. Joan's mother was unhappy in her life and wanted more for her daughter. She told Joan she could become a teacher. With great foresight, She had sewn money into the apron of a doll she had made for Joan, so she could one day leave her miserable life behind.

Boldly, Joan boards a train taking it first to Lancaster, then caught a train to Philadelphia, and finally rode a third train, to her final destination of Baltimore. She had planned to find work in Baltimore as a hired girl. A hired girl is a person who does cleaning and maid duties in households of wealthy families. Her plan started out fine, but the train was severely delayed and reached Baltimore too late to find a room at a boarding house, so Joan decided to sleep in the park and start her plan the next day. Solomon Rosenbach found her on the park bench cold and crying. He offered to take her home with him. He assured her he was a respectable man who lived with his parents, fortunately for Joan he was telling her the truth. At this point, Joan had already decided to change her name from Joan Skraggs to Janet Lovelace and she told Solomon she was eighteen years old, instead of her real age of fourteen.

Solomon's mother not only allowed Janet to stay the night, but she also offered her a position as a hired girl. Janet had to pass a trial period first, in order to keep the job. The Rosenbachs had a housekeeper named Malka, who was in her 70's, and Janet had to prove she could live up to the standards Malka had set for the household. Malta had fired many other girls who were unable to get along with her, but Janet likes Malta.. Janet did not realize the family was Jewish until Mrs. Rosenbach told her they were. She didn't have any prejudices against working for a Jewish family, even though Janet was Catholic. She did have a lot to learn about how a Jewish household was run, for instance they had to store meats and dairy foods separately and even wash the dishes these foods were on in separate sinks and with separate dish clothes. She also had to learn how to help prepare the house for Shabbos and various holidays.

Janet also needed to learn how to behave as a servant. She at first felt she could speak to the family members as she would anyone else. She was told by Malka and Mrs. Rosenbach she could not do this, instead she had to be deferential to the family members. Mr. Rosenbach was impressed by Joan's intelligence and eagerness to learn and read. He allowed her access to the books in the family library and helped to guide her education.

Mirele, the Rosenbach's 12 year old daughter, decided to befriend Janet. She wished for a girl to confide in and to have as a friend, so she took Janet shopping at the department store her father owns. Mrs. Rosenbach did not approve of her daughter and Janet going shopping together. It did not look good for her to socialize with the hired girl.

During this time Janet had started to attend mass once again; her father would not allow her to attend church once her mother had died. She even began taking confirmation lessons from Father Horst, who was not happy about Janet living with and working for a Jewish family.

David, the twenty-one year old son of the Rosenbach's, arrived home from New York, where he studied painting. He decided Janet would be a perfect model for a painting of Joan of Arc he was working on. He showed too much attention to Janet and even went so far as to kiss her. She thought she was in love with him. This causes complications when one night, Janet went to his room to tell him her true feelings, thinking he felt the same way about her. Malta heard them talking, confronted her and began screaming at Joan summoning the entire family to David's room. Thinking there was a lot more going on than talking, Mrs. Rosenbach decides that Janet must be fired. Miele has read Janet's diary, and reveals the truths of her past; her name is Joan and she is only 14 years old. These facts lead to Joan being assigned to work for the Rosenbach's married daughter.

This book shows the differences between the social-economic classes in 1911. It also gives insight into how people of both Christian and Jewish faiths viewed each other. Joan, because of her innocence and lack of preconceived notions, lacks any prejudice against people of differing circumstance. She shows how a young girl learns to navigate the social and religious paths of her times. ( )
  jothebookgirl | Jan 3, 2017 |
[The Hired Girl] by Laura Amy Schlitz is a historical YA novel. It has won several well deserved awards including the 2016 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction and the 2016 National Jewish Book Award for Children's and YA Literature.

This book is written in diary form, beginning in 1911. The diarist is 14 years old, motherless, and living on a hardscrabble farm in Pennsylvania with her father and three brothers. After the death of her mother, Jane's father forces her to leave her beloved school and teacher, and take on "the woman's work" on the farm. The work is thankless, brutal, and never ending. While she works, Jane dreams about the heroines she knows from the few novels she's read, and longs for a heroine's life.

After a particularly harsh incident with her father, Jane runs away, trying not to dwell on what he will do if he catches her. She makes her way to Baltimore on secret money her mother had sewn in a doll's dress. She has heard that "hired girls" do very well in Baltimore although she knows nothing about how to find a job or even what hired girls do. By luck she is befriended by a member of a wealthy Jewish family after he finds her sleeping on a park bench her first night in Baltimore. She is given a job in this family's home and she continues to write in her diary through her (and their) first tumultuous year.

In Jane, Schlitz created a lovable, maddening character. She's worthy of cheers and cringes as she learns about the world and life beyond the borders of the farm. ( )
  clue | Dec 31, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 076367818X, Hardcover)

Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz brings her delicious wit and keen eye to early twentieth-century America in a moving yet comedic tour de force.

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 06 Jul 2015 10:43:57 -0400)

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