Desperate for the education her father denies her on their Pennsylvania farm, 14-year-old Joan runs away to Baltimore in 1911, where a well-to-do Jewish family hires her to help their obstinate, aging housekeeper. Schlitz (Splendors & Glooms) has crafted another exquisite literary gem, one told entirely via Joan’s vivid, humorous, and emotionally resonant diary entries over a year and a half. Through Joan’s naïve perspective, Schlitz frankly discusses class, religion, women’s education, art, literature, and romance. Joan has trouble reconciling her devout Catholic faith with Judaism, mixing up kashrut and even attempting to convert her employers. Yet because Joan is a hard worker, the Rosenbachs are forgiving and good to her, even encouraging her to read from their library. Joan is reminiscent of heroines like Anne Shirley, Jo March, Cassandra Mortmain, and her own favorite character, Jane Eyre (Joan even gives herself a fittingly literary alias, Janet Lovelace). Her overactive imagination, passions, and impulsive disregard for propriety often get Joan into trouble, but these same qualities will endear her to readers everywhere. Ages 12–up. Agent: Stephen Barbara, Inkwell Management. (Sept.)
The beauty of this novel is that it dares to go beyond the school-is-cruel and paranormal-dystopian-romance conventions and lets its adolescent heroine think on the page about what makes a human being whole: art, love, faith, education, family, friendship.
—The New York Times Book Review
Written as a diary, the first-person narrative brings immediacy to Joan’s story and intimacy to her confessions and revelations. The distinctive household setting and the many secondary characters are well developed, while Joan comes alive on the page as a vulnerable, good-hearted, and sometimes painfully self-aware character struggling to find her place in the world. A memorable novel from a captivating storyteller.
—Booklist (starred review)
The diary format allows Joan's romantic tendencies full rein, as well as narrative latitude for a few highly improbable scenarios and wildly silly passion. Tons of period details, especially about clothing, round out a highly satisfying and smart breast-clutcher from this Newbery-winning author.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Joan is reminiscent of heroines like Anne Shirley, Jo March, Cassandra Mortmain, and her own favorite character, Jane Eyre...Her overactive imagination, passions, and impulsive disregard for propriety often get Joan into trouble, but these same qualities will endear her to readers everywhere.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Coming-of-age drama and deeper questions of faith, belonging, and womanhood are balanced with just the right blend of humor. A wonderful look into the life of strong girl who learns that she needs the love of others to truly grow up.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
The book is framed as Joan’s diary, and her weaknesses, foibles, and naiveté come through as clearly—and as frequently—as her hopes, dreams, and aspirations...by the end readers feel as if they’ve witnessed the real, authentic growth of a memorable young woman.
—The Horn Book (starred review)
Fans of Little Women, rejoice. Janet's impassioned diary, inspired by Schlitz's own grandmother's journals, explores themes of faith and feminism, love and literature, culture and class in early 20th-century America, all the while charming readers with a vivid cast of characters.
—Shelf Awareness (starred review)
What a heroine, not just for the early 20th century, which Ms. Schlitz skillfully evokes through Janet’s impressions, but also for our own time. An unsophisticated girl who thirsts for education, an impulsive idealist who, when she errs, passionately seeks to put things right: Janet Lovelace is an utterly endearing young woman on whom not a second of youth, it seems, will be wasted. Brava to Laura Amy Schlitz, whose enchanting writing has brought such a spectacular character to young people’s literature.
—The Wall Street Journal
An enlightening portrayal of a young girl’s struggle to assert herself at a time when women’s rights were just beginning to be established...Joan’s strength and determination, despite the expectations of a young woman’s attitude and behavior at the time, are inspiring to young readers. Readers of all ages will find her an appealing heroine.
...fans, who appreciate historical fiction as intelligent as it is entertaining, will be well pleased.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Joan is a true heroine with whom readers are sure to sympathize, and her exciting and humorous adventures will keep readers engaged. Written in diary form with the Voctorian eloquence reflecting Joan's love of Jane Eyre, this novel is sure to inspire girls of any background and lead to greater understanding of Jews and Judaism.
—Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter
[Joan's] strong voice allows the reader to understand and sympathize with her feelings and dilemmas. This is a book which can open up discussion on religious tolerance, cultural class distinctions, and women’s rights.
—School Library Connection
[Joan's] determined earnestness will lead readers to root for her...
An unusual novel, brilliantly executed, this book is well worth the reader’s time and will not be easily forgotten.
—Jewish Book Council
"The Hired Girl" is a tender, utterly captivating story about a girl grasping onto small kindnesses and trying to better herself—a classic American story.
—San Antonio Express-News
Joan runs away from home at age 14 to become a hired girl in 1911. Life with her unpleasant father and brothers on their farm in Pennsylvania is rough. Knowing she is not loved, she sees escape when she learns that the going rate for a hired girl in the city is $6 a week. She lands in Baltimore over her head and is rescued by the Rosenbachs. A large young woman, Joan presents herself as Janet, 18, impressing Mrs. Rosenbach with her love of reading, quickly making herself indispensable to the aging housekeeper, and landing a job as a hired girl and "Shabbos goy." Joan is smart, hardworking, and naïve, but most of all, she's romantic, thanks in large part to all those novels. The Rosenbachs' flirty son David seems to love her both for her mind and—as an aspiring artist—her looks. "Tall and robust and wholesome looking. You're like one of Michelangelo's Sibyls—a grand, bareheaded creature." Trouble ensues, but a happy ending awaits, with friendship and the awesome glint of an independent life. The diary format allows Joan's romantic tendencies full rein, as well as narrative latitude for a few highly improbable scenarios and wildly silly passion. Tons of period details, especially about clothing, round out a highly satisfying and smart breast-clutcher from this Newbery-winning author. (Historical fiction. 10-14)