Based on real events and people, Hagar’s story follows college student Helen Stevens during the summer of 1917 as the white “New York City college girl” learns farming to support the war effort.
As allies in war-torn Europe struggled with food scarcity despite U.S. supplies, American men trained as soldiers or moved from farms to factories. The Woman’s Land Army of America recruited and trained women to work on farms. Helen, who yearns to do more than roll bandages and knit socks for soldiers, enrolls in the Women’s Agricultural Camp in Bedford, New York, despite her parents’ disapproval. She and other “farmerettes” learn to whitewash a dairy, fence a coop, milk cows, and drive a tractor. Ida Ogilvie, the camp’s director, convinces dubious farmer Davie to give Helen, Alice, and Harriet a day’s unpaid trial. At day’s end, he directs them to return to test their work with livestock. Helen digs in, saying, “If you want us back tomorrow, it’ll be two dollars a day for each of us.” Hill’s Photoshopped gouache paintings, in a palette of green, gray-brown, gold, and pink, use flat color and simple contours to depict fields, workers, and pastel summer skies. Characters are white, perhaps reflecting the camp’s composition.
Crisp dialogue and small dramas propel this story of a young woman’s summer of service in wartime and women’s emerging power on the homefront. (author’s note, web search ideas, bibliography, period posters and photographs) (Picture book. 6-9)