Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
Published: September 8, 2015
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 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.
I did enjoy this book, mainly based on the relationships that Joan establishes throughout her experiences. This is essentially, a story about growing up in the early 20th century. I’ll admit that I thought Joan to be a little whiny, but she is only 14 and it wasn’t too annoying. I also liked the way that Schlitz tackled anti-Semitism. That’s not a very popular issue to take on but there was plenty of material from that time period!
She seemed to be very accurate with the personalities of people such as Mrs. Rosenbach and Malka. I ended up liking them the most. Malka is a crotchety old lady who knows how she likes things done and won’t tolerate any change or nonsense. Yet she still has a soft spot. Reading about her interactions with Joan and the Rosenbachs endeared her to me. And Mrs. Rosenbach handles every situation with grace, poise, and a steady moral compass. I really appreciate how Mr. Rosenbach encourages Joan’s love of learning and tries to hold his own children to a higher academic standard. Hardwork is also a central theme that I think would benefit certain generations who are far too entitled for their own good! All this to say that although the book is written in Joan’s own thoughts, I liked it for most of the characters aside from Joan! I recommend this to any teenager and anyone who enjoys historical fiction.