Laura Amy Shlitz’s The Hired Girl won the 2016 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction. The Scott O’Dell Award is awarded annually to an author of a “distinguished” work of historical fiction for young people set in America.
In The Hired Girl, 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 where the work never ends?
The judges saw more than a bit of L. M. Montgomery’s Anne Shirley in good-hearted but impulsive Joan, and Schlitz shares Montgomery’s ability to keep our respect for her heroine even while we cringe at some of her more ill-advised actions (a notion to convert the Rosenbach grandchild, for example),” wrote Scott O’Dell Award judge and Horn Book editor Roger Sutton in a post. “Like Joan herself, The Hired Girl is comedic, romantic, and always very real.”
Though The Hired Girl is now an award-winning title – and was named one of the New York Times notable children’s books of 2015 – it’s earned heavy critique from diversity advocates, including its portrayal of Native Americans and the attempt of the main character to convert characters who believe in Judaism. Justina Ireland looked at the defenses of The Hired Girl’s problematic aspects and wonders if those who aren’t white or Christian are part of the audience, which she followed up in a separate blog post, asking “just how long is a reader supposed to endure problematic content before they decide it is offensive?”
Would you have chosen The Hired Girl to win? Sound off in the comments below!