Hitty, Her First Hundred Years, by Rachel Field, was published in 1929 by Simon & Schuster.
Hitty is a doll of great charm and real character. It is indeed a privilege to be able to publish her memoirs which, besides being full of the most thrilling adventures on land and sea, also reveal a personality which is delightful and forceful. One glance at her portrait will show that she is no ordinary doll. Hitty, or Mehitable, as she was really named, was carved from a piece of white ash by a peddler who was spending the winter in Maine. Phoebe Preble, for whom Hitty was made, was very proud of her doll and took her everywhere, even on a long sailing trip in a whaler. In this way Hitty’s horizon was broadened and she acquired ample material to make her memoirs exciting and instructive.
Hitty, Her First Hundred Years is a charming novel, very much like a more serious The Doll People if the dolls only observed the goings-on around them. While it starts out a little outlandishly with Hitty’s adventures with the Preble family, it very quickly smooths out and becomes much more realistic in terms of Hitty getting from one place/family to another.
This may very well be my favorite Newbery Medal book so far, even surpassing The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle. Hitty’s voice, the adventures she goes through, and the observations she makes all combine to make a delightful book. There are definitely a few spots where the book’s age shows, but not very many, and once the book gets past those spots it’s very easy to immerse yourself into the book once again.
It’s amazing that a book about a doll would be so successful and lasting. I mean, The Doll People is good and all, but Hitty has a whole different sort of charm to it. I think one reason is that Hitty’s adventures certainly sound real—if an antique doll had a story to tell, it may very well be quite similar to Hitty’s own (except perhaps the whaling adventure at the beginning, the most hard-to-swallow of them all, as well as the most eyebrow-raising). It also helps that the people in the book, in the stories Hitty relates, are interesting and help keep Hitty’s story interesting. And, as vehicles for which Hitty moves, they’re nicely integrated into the story, and, as I said, make the story more believable.
Hitty, Her First Hundred Years is a promising start to the 1930s Newbery Medals. Along with Caddie Woodlawn, this decade is shaping up to be much more interesting and engaging than the 1920s boring fest of medal winners.
Recommended Age Range: 10+
Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s
“There, Kate,” said the Captain, suddenly pointing with his whip, “that’s the first mountain-ash tree I’ve seen this fall.”
There, sure enough, at the edge of some woods was a slim, tallish tree loaded down with bunches of orange berries. The tree seemed to bend under their weight and they shone like burnished balls.
“That’s Hitty’s tree,” cried Phoebe, “and it’s magic!”
“Hush, child,” reproved her mother, “you mustn’t say such things.”