Joan runs away from home at age 14 to become a hired girl in 1911.
Life with her unpleasant father and brothers on their farm in Pennsylvania is rough. Knowing she is not loved, she sees escape when she learns that the going rate for a hired girl in the city is $6 a week. She lands in Baltimore over her head and is rescued by the Rosenbachs. A large young woman, Joan presents herself as Janet, 18, impressing Mrs. Rosenbach with her love of reading, quickly making herself indispensable to the aging housekeeper, and landing a job as a hired girl and “Shabbos goy.” Joan is smart, hardworking, and naïve, but most of all, she’s romantic, thanks in large part to all those novels. The Rosenbachs’ flirty son David seems to love her both for her mind and—as an aspiring artist—her looks. “Tall and robust and wholesome looking. You’re like one of Michelangelo’s Sibyls—a grand, bareheaded creature.” Trouble ensues, but a happy ending awaits, with friendship and the awesome glint of an independent life. 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. (Historical fiction. 10-14)