YA Book Review: “The Hired Girl” by Laura Amy Schlitz
Some of us complain about having it rough. Really? Take a look at fourteen-year-old Joan Skraggs – the only girl in her house — who lives on a poor farm in Pennsylvania with her father and older brothers during the early 1900s. Here is her daily schedule: scrub and sweep the floor, clean out the chicken house, scrub the privy, black the stove, haul out the ashes, cook the food, wash the clothes, put food by, sew clothes, iron, pick the food, and go to school.
Not only is Joan the only girl, but none of her brothers or father feel the need to help her in any way. More discouragingly, her father has decided that Joan should end her schooling, even though this is the only highlight in her life. Joan feels the injustice of her virtual servitude and tries to get her father to agree to allow her to keep the pennies she earns from selling eggs. That much, at least, was given to her mother when she used to take care of the hens before she died. Instead of agreeing, her father becomes irate and when Joan stops making the men’s beds and washing their clothes in protest, he burns her only treasures: the three books her teacher gave her.
That does it for Joan. She had read in a newspaper that girls who worked for other people could earn $6 a week – to Joan, an incredible fortune! Determined, though inexperienced in how to achieve this goal, Joan runs away to seek her fortune. Luck, pluck, and fate combine in allowing Joan to find a situation that changes her life.
New York: Candlewood Press (2015). Reviewed by Lilly Hecker, Children’s Services Librarian. Ages 11 and older.