A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Strong messages about the values of curiosity, hard work, loyalty, discipline, forgiveness, religious tolerance, education, kindness, and creating your own family.
Positive Role Models
Joan is a 14-year-old girl who runs away from home, lies about her age, exaggerates the story of her upbringing, tries to convert a Jewish child to Christianity. Yet she's an incredibly hardworking, tenacious, honest, curious girl who cares a great deal about others, values skills and learning, demonstrates broad-mindedness and tolerance, and loves deeply. Her father is cruel, uncaring, verbally abusive, and sometimes physically abusive. Joan's employers are firm but caring and act as surrogate parents who expose her to reading and foster her education, in spite of their different religious views. Various minor characters are selfish or kind, often both.
Violence & Scariness
A girl is bitten in the face by a cow, bleeds and bruises, requires stitches. A girl dodges a blow from her father. Reference to girls dying in a shirtwaist factory fire in New York City. A man tells a story of religious persecution and babies torn apart. References to a mother's death. Sexual violence when a girl is led to a house and then groped and kissed against her will.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A girl and older boy kiss three times. A girl imagines having dull love affairs as a grown-up. There's some flirting and innuendo, discussions of suitable and unsuitable marriages, crushes, romantic intentions, and love poetry.
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"Hell," "Christ killers," "stupid." Some references to the Irish being perceived as dirty, Jewish noses, "Negroes."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Hired Girl is Newbery medalist Laura Amy Schlitz's moving, deftly conceived, engrossing fictional diary of a 14-year-old farm girl from Philadelphia who runs away and takes a job cleaning house for a Jewish family in 1911 Baltimore. Protagonist Joan Skraggs is a complex, rash, and headstrong character who is by turns noble, impetuous, and even sometimes dishonest, but her aspirations, concerns, and obsessions are relatable. There are moments of verbal abuse (and near physical abuse) from her father, a recurring theme of grief over the loss of her mother, some flirtations and sexual situations (groping, kissing), and frank religious discussions of Jewish persecution. But it's primarily an uplifting tale about a girl's desire to educate herself, earn her own way, and move up in the world with common sense and compassion.
Is It Any Good?
This fictional diary of a feisty, pure-hearted girl who craves self-betterment is a stunner of a novel. Young Joan finds her way through new experiences involving religious clashes, hard work, young love, missteps of class and manners, and mind-broadening reading. But what makes her relatable are all her girlish daydreams and impulses, her well-intentioned meddling, class-related foibles, and efforts at improving her hardscrabble existence to become acceptable in more affluent society.
Along the way, readers will be challenged to examine their own biases about love and religion and immerse themselves in a world on the cusp of big changes for women, the economy, and households everywhere. An absorbing read that offers a kaleidoscope of history, feminism, and class issues through a young girl's poignant coming of age.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.