Goodreads Summary: 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 loved this book. I’m a great fan of historical fiction, especially when it is well written. I added this book to my TBR list because someone had mentioned it might be a contender for either the Newbery or the Printz awards. Unfortunately, it was snubbed by both committees. The book has received high ratings including a star review from SLJ and a favorable review from Kirkus.
As an adult reader of books for children/teens I really enjoyed the book. Joan is a wonderful character: innocent with a thirst for knowledge and a strong desire to be a good person. I love all the characters except for her brutish father and clueless brothers. I also appreciated the tie in with Bronte’s Jane Eyre. I found the story engaging and hard to put down. I was fortunate enough to snag an autographed copy at the Texas Book Festival this past October. It’s a wonderful addition to my autographed book collection.
Will I purchase this for my school library? Probably not. SLJ marks it for Grades 6 – 9 and I agree. I do have a few advanced readers here at school who enjoy historical fiction, that I think would enjoy the book. But overall, I think it’s better suited for middle school and up.