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. 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.
Age recommendation: 10 to 14 years old
Grade Level: 5 to 9
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)
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 unusual novel, brilliantly executed, this book is well worth the reader’s time and will not be easily forgotten.
—Jewish Book Council